The Houston Rockets search for a new head coach has reached a surprising end as Kevin McHale agreed to take over the team on Friday, ending a month long process of looking for Rick Adelman’s successor.
Team officials and the front office were very impressed with McHale, leading to his filling the vacancy, according to the Houston Chronicle.
While McHale has received open arms and highly touted reviews by players and coaches around the league, his pedigree is what some fans doubt. The old Boston Celtics great has very little coaching experience, nothing more than two stints as an interim coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves for a total of 94 games.
McHale filled in for the exiting Flip Saunders in the 2004-05 season, posting a 19-12 record in 31 games.
He again took over the team for the 2008-09 season, filling in for Randy Wittman for 63 games. He finished 20-43 that season with a team as talented as a youth YMCA team.
The final three considerations for Houston’s vacant head coach position were McHale, Boston Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank, who has coached 466 games in his career including four playoff appearances, and Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, who has coached 102 games.
Since the Rockets back-to-back titles run in the mid-90s, Houston has had three coaches, including Rudy Tomjanovich, Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Adelman. The three coaches combined for 32 playoff appearances, five conference championships and two NBA titles.
After winning the Larry O’Brien trophy in ’95, the Rockets have only posted three losing seasons, only adding to the pressure of McHale’s success in coming seasons.
Though McHale has limited experience coaching, and of what time he’s spent on the bench has been mostly in losing fashion, one thing cannot be denied: McHale knows basketball. Since joining the league as a player in 1980, McHale led a successful 13-year career, filled with seven all-star appearances and three titles. He’s been around winning throughout his career, and that has to count for something.
McHale did a hit-or-miss job as GM of the Timberwolves. After picking up Kevin Garnett in the ’95 draft, Minnesota made the playoffs eight seasons in a row, from 1996-97 season through 2003-04. But since then, the team hasn’t made it to the postseason once, and only posted one winning record. Despite winning records, Houston has missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in the deep Western Conference, so McHale would be lauded for getting the team back to the postseason.
However, if the Rockets don’t soon get back to playing into May, or if the team swings around to the losing half of the league, expect McHale’s critics to become very vocal, and the hot seat to only get warmer and warmer.