Kevin McHale is good at coaching basketball. Weird, right?
His recent legacy has been shaped by his poor turn as Minnesota Timberwolves general manager. He was the guy who drafted Kevin Garnett, but also the guy who jumped the gun on the Stephon Marbury trade, cost his team draft picks with an illegal Joe Smith deal (why in the world would you write that down, Kevin?), and then proceeded to Will Avery and Randy Foye it up in the years following.
But beyond that, he was Kevin McHale the low-post beast, Kevin McHale the spot-on TV analyst, and (briefly, in two stints), Kevin McHale the very good basketball coach. Three out of four ain't bad.
The Houston Rockets, led by a guy who pays attention to these sorts of things, are in the process of hiring McHale to coach their team, as reported first by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. McHale never seemed to warm to the idea of coaching when the gig was asked of him twice in Minnesota, and we're still not sure why he's giving up a chauffeured turn as NBA TV and TNT analyst to schlep around the NBA as a head coach (besides the millions, 'natch), but this does seem to be a good deal for all involved.
Why? Because McHale will get the heck out of the way. He's a cheery sort, save for this column, and Rockets GM Daryl Morey will be allowed the opportunity to run his Rockets the way he sees fit without any confrontation. Neither party, in this instance, likes that sort of thing. Dwane Casey is the better coach, we know that, but Morey doesn't want any interference. McHale won't be flagged for interference.
That's not a shot, at either side. Players respect McHale, and McHale (as we learned in his time spent as a TV analyst) respects new ways of thinking. This isn't some move to put Houston over the top, because even if Yao Ming enjoys a miraculous return it's still hard to see this pretty-good team displacing anyone in the Western playoff bracket next year (unless injuries hit some other team, for once), but things will go smoothly as he takes the reins.
Good thing. Because as formidable a coach as Rick Adelman was, he was out of place coaching a team put together by Daryl Morey. McHale won't distort Morey's front office-to-sideline vision as much, he'll keep the team motivated, and his own talents as a sideline stalker will fit right in.
This wasn't Houston going after the biggest name available. This was a smart hire that should pay off. The move will surely backfire if McHale (who was an interim in his first two coaching stints, and knew that he'd soon be off the bench) loses interest, but the guy seems willing to grow, and we dig that.
(Analysis HT: Woj.)