The name ‘Kevin McHale’ can elicit a number of different reactions. Among Celtics fans (or simply low-post enthusiasts), the man is revered as an NBA legend of the highest order. One of the all-time greats, McHale was an instrumental part of three Celtics championships. Ask a die-hard Laker fan however, and the responses likely range from hatred to begrudging respect.
Then, ask one of the handful of Timberwolves fans left on the planet, and they’ll probably curse his name before sending you an invitation to attend a cult meeting in which they cast hexes on the man that botched roster move after roster move as the GM in Minnesota.
Those are the two sides of McHale that are well-understood and oft-discussed, but a third dimension of Kevin’s NBA persona remains largely undiscovered: his coaching ability. It’s a particularly relevant side of McHale that we’d be smart to understand, as Kevin “expects to be interviewed” for the Bulls’ head coaching job according to Jim O’Donnell of the Chicago Sun-Times.
McHale has coached 94 games in the NBA over two separate stints with the Wolves, but he was never actually given a team to call his own. In ’04-’05, McHale coached the team after Flip Saunders’ firing, and led a decent Wolves squad to a 19-12 record over the final 31 games. Then, in ’08-’09, McHale was sent in to relieve the magnificently awful Randy Wittman coached the team to a 4-15 record. McHale went 20-43 with the same roster, that included Al Jefferson, Kevin Love in his rookie year, and the incredible talents of pre-jumper Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, and the ghost of Mike Miller.
Not exactly jaw-dropping coaching records there, but respectable performances for an interim. Especially for an interim that had to coach a McHale-constructed team. The man has clearly shown that he can’t put a roster together, but I think he’s still a capable coach and teacher, particularly for a young team like the Bulls.
As Kevin notes in the Sun-Times piece, he’ll have some stiff competition; anyone would want the opportunity to coach Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and what looks to be a quality free agent acquisition. This could be a head coach’s opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that could be fantastic, so from McHale’s perspective, vying for the job is a no-brainer. The big question is whether or not Gar Forman and the Bulls can see past the poor managing resume to properly identify and appraise McHale’s coaching talent.
He may not be the best man for this job, but Kevin McHale is far better as a coach than his caricature suggests. He doesn’t guarantee success, but McHale deserves another shot as a head coach in the NBA.