Learning to Cope with Kevin McHale

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIIJuly 3, 2008

Minnesota's Mr. Basketball, 1976

Second in career points and rebounds at the University of Minnesota

A first round draft pick, third overall

All-Rookie First Team

A seven-time NBA All-Star

A six-time All-Defense team

A three-time NBA Champion

A two-time Sixth Man of the Year

All-NBA First Team

Averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in 971 career games

No. 32 retired by the Boston Celtics

Minnesota High School League Hall of Fame inductee

Naismith Hall of Fame inductee

NBA Hall of Fame inductee

Member of the 50th Anniversary All-Time team

13-year pro


Unarguably, Kevin McHale is one of the most dominant power forwards in NBA history. As a member of the dreaded "Big Three" consisting of McHale, Larry Bird, and Robert Parrish, he helped the Celtics terrorize the NBA in the 1980s and early '90s, winning three championships.

But we must also remember when he helped his buddy, former teammate Danny Ainge (the GM of the Celtics), become a rebuilding genius.

Unarguably, Kevin McHale runs one of the worst front offices in NBA history. As the assistant GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, McHale put together "The Big Three," consisting of Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell.

The Timberwolves terrorized the NBA in 2004, clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, where they defeated the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings.

But then the Wolves met McHale's Kryptonite, the Los Angeles Lakers, where they lost to a feuding Kobe, a nine-toed Shaq, a Mailman nearing retirement, and an over-used Glove. The Big Three couldn't beat the Big (and slightly older) Four.

Following the '04 season, McHale tore the Big Three apart. He dealt Cassell to the Clippers. He threw Sprewell in the garbage. He threw Garnett to the wolves, once again rebuilding around the veteran who was done rebuilding.

As of late, McHale is recognized as a giver, although he never had more than 10 assists in a game. He single-handedly rebuilt the Celtic franchise, and he is helping Memphis get back on top as well.

But these are not the only major errors of which McHale has been guilty:


1994: McHale becomes Assistant GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

1995: McHale becomes Vice President of Basketball Operations. Hires former college teammate Flip Saunders as Head Coach, the only coach to lead the Wolves to the postseason. Drafts high school standout Kevin Garnett with the fifth pick in the NBA Draft.

Life looks pretty good so far for the Wolves, right?

1996: McHale drafts Ray Allen (the most accurate three-point shooter in NBA history) to Milwaukee for guard Stephon Marbury. The Wolves would make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history headlined by blossoming duo Garnett and Marbury. They lose in the first round to the Rockets in three games.

1997: Wolves make the playoffs again. They lose in the first round to the Sonics in five games.

1998: McHale signs free agent Joe Smith to a one-year deal. McHale signs Garnett to a six-year, $126 million deal. Marbury wants to be the biggest star on the team. McHale trades him to New Jersey for Terrell Brandon and a first-round pick (sixth overall). Wolves lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Spurs in four games.

1999: McHale drafts Wally Szczerbiak, whose Wolves career was riddled with injuries, with the sixth overall pick, while players such as Rip Hamilton and Shawn Marion are still on the board. Wolves lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Blazers in four games.

2000: David Stern penalizes the Wolves for a salary cap scandal that went down between Joe Smith and the McHale. When Smith signed in 1998, he and the Wolves made a verbal agreement that if Smith signed a one-year deal in 1998 for below market value, McHale would reward him with a multi-year deal.

McHale's secret deal cost the Wolves five first-round draft choices and $3.5 million, and the league voided Smith's contract. Malik Sealy is killed by a drunk driver, and his No. 2 is retired by the Wolves. The Wolves lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Spurs in four games.

2001: McHale re-signs Joe Smith after he was released by Detroit. The Wolves lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Mavericks in three games. 

2002: Wolves lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Lakers in six games.

2003: After acquiring a first round pick in a trade, McHale selects Ndudi Ebi. McHale acquires Sam Cassell, Ervin Johnson, and Latrell Sprewell in a multi-team trade.

2004: Garnett wins first MVP award. Wolves win Midwest Division title (and they still hold the title today...the league reformatted in 2005.) Wolves win playoff series vs. Denver and Sacramento, but lose to the Lakers in six games.

2005: The 2004 team takes the floor in '05, plus contract disputes from Cassell and Sprewell. McHale fires Saunders midseason and takes over as head coach, going 19-12.

Wolves miss the playoffs. Sprewell tells media he can't feed his family on $14.6 million. Rick Reilly tells Sprewell he can. http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1113702/index.htm.

2006: McHale hires Dwayne Casey as head coach and begins to rebuild the team. He drafts Brandon Roy in the first round, but trades him to Portland for Randy Foye.

Roy would win the Rookie of the Year award and become one of the dominant young guards in the NBA while Foye has not lived up to expectations. "He's a poor man's Allen Iverson," says Bill Walton.

2007: McHale fires Dwayne Casey. He hires Randy Wittman. He trades Garnett to Boston for Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, two first round draft picks, cash, and the dumpster behind TD Banknorth Garden.

Garnett wins an NBA title during first year in Boston. McHale sits at home collecting Timberwolves revenue as Wolves go 22-60.

2008: McHale drafts standout guard O.J Mayo for a team that needs a guard. He deals Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love, neglecting the world of the Gay-Love connection in Memphis.

Rudy Gay and Kevin Love would have made a dynamic duo in Memphis, just like Ray Allen and Allen Ray did in Boston.

As of today, the Wolves only guard is Randy Foye.


Had McHale played the game like he runs a team, he wouldn't have lasted the year, let alone 13. He wouldn't have three rings.

McHale can’t say he hasn’t had any talent to build around. He had the most consistent player in the NBA in his organization for 12 years. He had many good draft picks go bad…or else he traded them. During his tenure in Minnesota, the Wolves have had eight playoff appearances, but have only made it past the first round once.

McHale has helped rebuild other franchises, but has neglected his own. Before the deal to Boston went down, there was potential for a three-team deal.

Garnett would have landed in Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire would have gone to Atlanta, and the Wolves would have gotten two first round draft picks from the Hawks, picks No. 3 and 11, which would have given the Wolves picks No. 3, 7, and 11.

I think this would have been the better deal, because the Wolves would have gotten two young players they wanted, rather than having to sift through Boston’s junk.

Theo Ratliff and Gerald Green were dealt before the All-Star Game, and the Wolves are currently trying to re-sign Sebastian Telfair and/or Ryan Gomes to play next year.

A little Mayo sounds good right about now...


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