Rockets GM Daryl Morey stepping down; Rafael Stone promoted to GM

In what has to be described as stunning news - Daryl Morey is stepping down as Rockets general manager, it's been reported (by ESPN) that he'll remain with the team short term to assist in the search for a head coach with the team deep into interviews with Ty Lue and Jeff Van Gundy among others.

Morey has been with the Rockets since 2006, initially as the assistant general manager before taking over as general manager in 2007. Executive VP of Basketball Operations Rafael Stone has been promoted to general manager. Stone and assistant general manager Eli Witus were both promoted to their current positions in April of 2019

Stone was promoted to Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Counsel, with Eli Witus promoted to Assistant General Manager and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

Here's what was said by the team in the press release announcing those moves:

In their roles, Stone and Witus work closely with Morey on the draft, free agency, trades, salary cap management and game strategy.

“We are very fortunate to have Rafael and Eli,” said Morey. “They work wonderfully together providing strategic insight and analysis. Collectively, they are on the cutting edge of basketball decision making and have been key to our ability to put the team in the place we are today. It is important to us organizationally to be flexible and creative as we find ways to add to our roster and these two are at the forefront of that effort. Whether it be acquiring Chris Paul two years ago or signing Clint Capela this summer, we are leaning on them to identify winning players and figure out the best method of fitting them into our team.”

Stone, who is in his 14th full season with the Rockets, has been serving as General Counsel since 2005 and will continue within that role as well.

“Rafael has been an integral part of nearly all the big touchpoints for the Rockets over the past decade, whether it be player trades, TV deals, concerts or the sale of the team,” said Rockets Chief Executive Officer Tad Brown.

“Having worked side by side with Rafael for so long, I really thought it was important for him and for our organization to recognize the impact he has had and the role he has played within our basketball operations department over the last several years, so this title is overdue,” said Morey. “In addition, we are very happy he will be here for the foreseeable future.”

Witus, who is in his 11th season with the Rockets, started as a statistical analyst in 2008 and has led the Rockets’ analytics department and cap management since his promotion to Vice President of Basketball Operations in 2013.

“Eli is one of the smartest people I have ever met,” said Morey. “Even before he began working here his work in understanding basketball analytics was second to none, and his creativity and expertise in navigating the rules of the salary cap has given us a significant edge.”

“I would like ‘to thank Mr. Fertitta for the opportunity to continue on with such an amazing job,” said Stone. Watching Mr. Fertitta negotiate a deal is no different than watching James Harden play basketball. For me, it’s a master class in my chosen profession. From the second he took over, Mr. Fertitta has challenged us to hone and improve our approach to building a championship-caliber team, encouraged us to think even bigger and be even more aggressive. Working every day in the trenches with Daryl, learning from sure-fire Hall of Famers like Coach D’Antoni and Coach Lucas and striving to win a championship alongside an amazingly smart and talented group Tad and Daryl have assembled in the front office is a privilege I don’t take lightly.”

“Working for the Rockets has been an amazing opportunity,” said Witus. “Daryl and Mr. Fertitta have really created a true meritocracy. For all of us working here, we know that our responsibilities and opportunities have and will continue to grow with the work we put in.”