Is Kevin McHale Just a Transitional Coach for the Houston Rockets?
With the way the Rockets' front office has been operating since Rick Adelman's departure, it's fair to ask whether current head coach Kevin McHale is in Houston's long-term plans.
So far, most of what the Rockets have done suggests that McHale may not be around for an extensive period.
It begins with the circumstances under which Kevin McHale arrived in Houston.
One of the big issues Adelman struggled with when deciding whether to stay with the Rockets was his coaching staff, among other things.
Daryl Morey wanted Adelman to accept a candidate to be placed on his staff, so he could mentor him and prepare him to be his successor, according to Jonathan Feigan of the Houston Chronicle. Adelman had insisted that his own assistant, Elston Turner, would be ready to succeed him.
However, the assistant coach that Morey wanted on Adelman's staff was likely going to be former NBA Developmental League Rio Grande Valley Vipers head coach Chris Finch.
So it was no surprise that one of the key factors in the Rockets' decision to hire Kevin McHale was his willingness to accept an assistant coach that the front office appointed. One of the major talking points the day before McHale's hiring was about the structure of the coaching staff, according to Jonathan Feigan of the Houston Chronicle.
Chris Finch is currently an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets.
While it's fairly commonplace in coaching in professional sports that the head coach doesn't get full control over who is on his staff, having a possible successor selected before you begin your tenure is probably a bit disconcerting.
McHale is on a four-year contract, and the final year of the deal is a team-option. With the team looking poised to develop young talent, he may not have enough time to turn things around.
An obvious fact is that the Rockets have been looking to remain competitive by closing a deal on a superstar through trades using their young talent and assets. That deal has yet to materialize, and the Rockets are now in a situation that may be better for the future than for McHale.
The Rockets fell just short of the playoffs for the third-straight year last season. Almost every player that made those teams competitive now have new homes. Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and other veterans are no longer on the team. Kevin Martin is the only one that remains, and he's in the last year of his contract.
The new-look Rockets are a lot younger and don't have nearly as much experience as the previous roster did, which may cause times to get a bit tougher for McHale.
Even if he's able to get the best out of them and they develop faster than expected, it's not likely they'll be competitive enough to make the playoffs.
Of course, the major turnover in roster and lack of experience may work in McHale's favor. The Houston brass could conclude that McHale should get more time with a young roster, but there isn't much insight into the thought process of the Rockets' tight-lipped front office.
Still, the thought having an appointed successor on your staff with no foreseeable future in sight isn't comforting.
Though McHale may buy into Morey's scouting process more than Adelman did, the uncertainty that goes with Morey's method in dealing with players like "assets" could inadvertently put McHale in a bad position.
Consistency is key for a coach to establish himself and develop towards a future, but the Rockets have turned their roster over and made so many deals recently that it is unfair to expect McHale to deliver strong results each season.
Such is life in the NBA. Winning is the only true insurance.
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