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By this formula, McHale sets the standard

  • Article by: Steve Aschburner
  • Star Tribune
  • March 4, 2007 - 8:02 PM

BOSTON - Red Auerbach wasn't around to congratulate Kevin McHale when the Timberwolves played Sunday at Boston, but he would have been proud. What Auerbach undeniably was during the heyday of the Celtics dynasty in the 1950s and '60s, McHale apparently is now.

You might want to sit down for this one ...

Forbes, that highly regarded, globally savvy business magazine, did an evaluation of the general managers in the four major professional sports and ranked them, No. 1 through No. 98 (GMs with three years service or more). The name at the top of a list on the publication's website (forbes.com) and presumably in its current print edition was (ta-dah!):

Kevin McHale.

"No. 1 best or No. 1 worst?" a surprised Timberwolves player said before tipoff Sunday.

Said Cedric Maxwell, a former Celtics teammate of McHale and one of Boston's broadcasters: "This was national? This wasn't 'Forbes-Duluth?' A guy who signed Kevin Garnett to a $100-plus-million contract? Well, I am slightly surprised. But God bless him."

As Forbes explained it, writers Jack Gage and Peter J. Schwartz used rather limited criteria for their analysis: First, they measured each GM according to his team's performance (regular season and postseason) compared to its winning percentage before his arrival -- and then weighted that double. Second, they looked at the team's payroll on the GM's watch, relative to the league, compared to his predecessors' payroll control.

"The Timberwolves' McHale has been harshly criticized in the press for not giving superstar Kevin Garnett the supporting cast to win a championship," they wrote. "But McHale has guided the Timberwolves to eight playoff births [sic] and a .539 regular season winning percentage -- more than double his predecessor's .244. Winning improvement under McHale has been so great that it offset a 19 percent rise in salary against the NBA's median payroll during his 11 years as GM."

Something about that typo on what should be "berth" might make a reader question Forbes' sports acumen. Also, at one point, even Gage and Schwartz seem to hint that something is unusual about their list, because one subhead in the article reads: "Our rankings surely will raise some eyebrows."

McHale, who attended the funeral of former Celtics guard Dennis Johnson on Friday, could not be reached for comment. He still was on the West Coast scouting college games, Wolves spokesman Mike Cristaldi said.

Among McHale's fellow NBA general managers, Detroit's Joe Dumars is No. 15, Memphis' widely respected Jerry West is 33, Indiana's Larry Bird is 36 and Dallas' Donnie Nelson is 40. Boston's Danny Ainge, another former Celtic, is ranked 92nd, six spots from the bottom.

McHale's ranking also dwarfs that of the Twin Cities' other sports executives. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan is at 53, the Vikings' Rob Brzezinski at 72 and Wild boss Doug Risebrough at 88.

Steve Aschburner • saschburner@startribune.com

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