Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kevin McHale Will Not Return to Wolves

Kevin McHale has been informed he will not coach the Timberwolves in 2009-10 after a third meeting with new personnel guru David Kahn. According to the Jerry Zgoda article, no formal reason was given other than Kahn wanted to make a change.

McHale's record as a coach was certainly better than his personnel record. He took over the team from Randy Wittman 19 games into the 2008-09 season and turned over his front office responsibilities in the process. He was 20-43 the rest of the season, but coached without forward Al Jefferson for the final 32 games after blowing out his ACL and guard Randy Foye missed 12 of the team's final 22 games. When at full strength, the T-Wolves played hard under McHale - something not present with Wittman at the helm. McHale also coached the final 31 games of the 2005-06 season after firing Flip Saunders and went 19-12. His overall coaching mark is 39-55 in parts of two seasons.

McHale joined the Wolves' front office in 1993 after he retired and assumed control of basketball operations in 1995. He drafted Kevin Garnett in his first draft in 1995 and acquired Stephon Marbury at the 1996 draft. The two formed the core of a team which made eight-consecutive playoff appearances, and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. The team has not been back to the playoffs since, and was forced to trade McHale in the summer of 2007 after deciding not to offer him an extension.

McHale's personnel blunders are summarized well here. However, it's important to remember that the team was absolutely dead when he arrived in 1993 and moribund when he took over basketball operations in 1995. He also hired Flip Saunders to coach the team, and the tandem was absolutely the right group to lead this team to respectability. The Garnett trade will eventually make this franchise solid in a few years, but it's too bad that McHale held on to Garnett for one or two years longer than he did, as the rebuilding phase could have been commenced earlier and the team would be that much closer to respectability.

What's next for the Wolves? Well, the draft is approaching, and the team has three first round picks at #6, 18, and 28. Kahn must also begin his search for a new coach. The new head coach must be able to work well with young players. The nucleus here is actually pretty good, with Jefferson, Foye, Kevin Love, and Ryan Gomes forming the heart of the team. Fitting one or two of the first round picks into the rotation should be easy, but 2009-10 is going to be another long season in Minnesota. If I were Kahn, I'd call two guys: Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau and Dallas assistant Dwane Casey. Thibodeau is a defensive wiz and is on everyone's short list for a head coaching candidate. He was an assistant to Bill Musselman on the original Wolves' coaching staff. Casey, of course, was the head coach of the Wolves for less than two seasons and was fired with a 20-20 record in 2007. Both should warrant calls.

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