Kevin McHale earned this.
After a fast start to the season for the Rockets the franchise has decided to give the Hall-of-Fame player a three year extension as coach, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and since confirmed by other sources.
The three-year deal is worth nearly $13 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports. McHale had been in the final season of his original three-year contract and completed an agreement on a new deal on Wednesday morning, sources said.
He entered this season as a lame duck in the last year of his contract on a seat that was getting warm — management wanted to see a step forward yet over the summer the team lost quality NBA rotation players in Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. GM Daryl Morey had gone big game hunting in free agency (Chris Bosh in particular) and missed and now on paper the Rockets seemed poised to take a step back.
But McHale has got them playing defense — they are giving up just 97.5 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA and 5.6 points per 100 better than last season. Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff deserves a lot of credit for that defensive growth.
That defense has propelled them to a 20-7 record despite not having Dwight Howard for extended stretches. The Rockets have added some of the depth they lost by bringing in Corey Brewer from Minnesota in a trade. The Rockets are also considered the frontrunners to land Josh Smith as a free agent once he clears waivers (5 p.m. ET Dec. 24, although a decision isn’t expected on where he plays next for a few days).
McHale is one of the good guys around the league, quick with great stories from his legendary Celtics days, and he generally is upbeat (for a coach). But he showed this year he knows what to do on the bench, and he’s now been rewarded for it.