Last chance for McHale in Minnesota
By John McMullen, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NBA's coaching ranks are starting to resemble the killing fields.
Minnesota's Randy Wittman was the fourth head coach to pay for the sins of his boss this season when Kevin McHale, the Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations, wielded Paul Bunyan's axe to Wittman's career on Monday.
But, unlike Sam Presti, who unloaded P.J. Carlesimo in Oklahoma City, Ernie Grunfeld, who jettisoned Eddie Jordan in Washington and Bryan Colangelo, who ousted Sam Mitchell in Toronto, McHale is going to have to oversee the mess he created in the Twin Cities.
T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor "convinced" McHale to relinquish his front-office duties in order to take over the club and concentrate on coaching.
Reading between the lines, a rather long honeymoon is finally nearing an end for McHale in the Twin Cities.
Your average general manager with a similar resume to McHale would have been shown the door years ago. But, McHale, a Hall of Fame player with an incredible drop-step move for the Boston Celtics, is a Minnesota legend.
Born in Hibbing, he was Minnesota's Mr. Basketball during his senior season at Hibbing High School. The 6-foot-10 power forward then moved on to the University of Minnesota where he was named All-Big Ten in 1979 and 1980.
Simply put, Kevin McHale is basketball in Minnesota. In 1992, he was elected to the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame and, in 1995, he was selected as top player in the history of University of Minnesota men's basketball.
McHale's tenure running the Timberwolves pales in comparison to his brilliant exploits on the court, however. His teams won just two playoff series during Kevin Garnett's 12 brilliant seasons in Minneapolis. He then jettisoned Garnett in July of 2007 for five players and two draft picks in the NBA's largest deal for a single player, a trade that looked like a favor to his old teammate Danny Ainge.
Of course, Garnett went on to win four playoff series during his first season in Boston and the NBA championship. This season, the Celtics are off to a gaudy 20-2 start.
Meanwhile, the Wolves are a miserable 26-75 since the trade and 4-15 this season, including a lopsided loss at home to the equally woeful Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
So, Taylor threw down the gauntlet and put McHale on notice.
"There were certain goals and expectations that we had for this team at the start of the season, and we have not lived up to them," Taylor said in a statement. "I am disappointed in our record and believe that we have more talent than our record indicates. A change had to be made and with three- fourths of the season remaining, there is still time to make substantial progress this year."
The last time McHale stepped down from his throne was during the 2004-05 season after he fired his good friend Flip Saunders and coached the final 31 games that season. He actually did a good job, injecting life into the Wolves and guiding them to a 19-12 record down the stretch.
A similar showing is needed if McHale hopes to avoid joining Wittman on the unemployment line.
"Kevin has assembled the players on this team, and believes in their talent and skill level," Taylor said. "It is my expectation that Kevin will be able to get the most out of our team and our players in his new role as head coach."
With his back against the wall and his tenure hanging in the balance, McHale agreed.
"I truly believe that we have a talented group of players in our locker room who have a great amount of potential," said McHale. "I'm confident that we can get this turned around and get back to playing a brand of basketball that our fans can be proud of."
Of course, what else could McHale say?
He is the architect of the eyesore that is the T-Wolves, and now he is finally being held accountable.
12/08 15:25:35 ET