RandBall: Kevin McHale gets last laugh on Wolves
- Blog Post by: Michael Rand
- February 11, 2014 - 9:34 AM
Timberwolves fans couldn't wait to get rid of Kevin McHale in 2009, after he had first stopped being the team's personnel boss and then the team's head coach when Kurt Rambis was hired. The reasons, at the time, were certainly valid.
While McHale presided over the most successful era in Wolves history, which was directly related to his drafting of Kevin Garnett, he had also failed to build a championship-caliber team around Garnett during almost all of his prime and then squandered the final few years of KG's time here by putting the Wolves in salary cap jail through a series of questionable moves. And let's not, of course, forget about Joe Smith.
That said, here we are five years since McHale left, and this is the Wolves' reality: their two best players -- at the very least the two players the organization was heavily promoting for the All-Star game -- were acquired by McHale in the very last draft he presided over with the Wolves in 2008. He nabbed Kevin Love in a draft-night swap of rookies, then took Nikola Pekovic early in the second round.
The man who replaced McHale as personnel boss, David Kahn, can take credit in the draft for Ricky Rubio and very little else. He was good at bottoming the team out and creating cap space, things McHale did not do. He was really not good at all at using that space, flexibility and draft picks to build a winning roster.
The man who replaced McHale as head coach, Rambis, won 32 games in two seasons -- fewer than McHale won as Wolves coach in parts of two interim seasons (39).
The man who essentially swapped places with McHale in 2011 -- Rick Adelman had been coaching the Rockets, where McHale started coaching at the same time Adelman came here -- has directed the Wolves to 81 victories and zero playoff appearances in those two-and-a-half seasons. McHale has led the Rockets to 114 wins, one playoff appearance, and has another almost certainly on the way this year after his Houston squad trounced the Wolves at Target Center on Monday night to improve to 35-17.
Long story short: McHale needed to go in 2009, for the sanity of fans and for the sake of starting over. But five years later, it is clear that he is getting the last laugh -- coaching a better team, while his old team is still trying to build around the players he nabbed in 2008.
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