Houston Rockets: 4 Reasons Kevin McHale Is Already on the Hot Seat
The Houston Rockets officially made Kevin McHale their new head coach on June 1, signing him to a four-year deal, with the final year being a team option.
What are the odds the final year is picked up by owner Les Alexander?
He and general manager Daryl Morey did a nice job selling McHale as the right hire, but that remains to be seen. After two straight years out of the playoffs, the owner and the fans want improved results, not explanations as to why the season continues to end after 82 games.
Whenever the lockout ends, so does McHale's honeymoon, and then the pressure's on.
Here are four reasons why he's already sitting on the hot seat.
Compared to most of the NBA's new coaching hires, McHale's resume is weak.
He has never served as an assistant coach and has only 94 games of head coaching experience, twice being thrust into the position in Minnesota on an interim basis.
During that time he went 39-55, which isn't a record that screams "future elite coach." McHale will have much more talent to work with in Houston than he ever did with the Timberwolves, so he'll no longer have that excuse in his back pocket.
Aside from limited experience, McHale has also been deemed responsible by many for ruining the Timberwolves organization while he was general manager. This has to scare Rockets fans because one of the reasons Alexander hired him was for his ability and willingness to develop young prospects.
Kevin Garnett and Al Jefferson credit McHale for helping them become the players they are today, so it depends on who you want to listen to. Either way, he must rise above his past if he plans on having a prosperous future in Houston.
Toronto's Dwane Casey (left) was an assistant for the Dallas Mavericks in 2010-11
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Six franchises changed head coaches following the 2010-11 season: Golden State, Houston, Detroit, Indiana, Toronto and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Of the new hires, Morey and Alexander interviewed all but Golden State's Mark Jackson. Dwane Casey (Toronto) and Lawrence Frank (Detroit) were the other finalists for the job.
McHale doesn't have to worry so much about what Mike Brown does with the Lakers because he's expected to win 55 games and challenge for a championship right away. The Rockets don't have the roster to compete at that level.
But he better make sure the Rockets don't dip below teams like the Warriors and Pacers, and certainly not the Raptors or Pistons. If any of those four have better seasons or show more progress moving forward than the Rockets, Alexander will immediately question his decision to hire McHale.
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Make no mistake, McHale is inheriting a talented roster with guys like Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson. The Rockets are two deep at every position but center and just about everyone possesses young legs.
They'll also have great cap flexibility to sign or trade for the superstar the city currently lacks.
That's all well and good, but it's the same roster that won 43 and 42 games and missed the playoffs the past two seasons. The club finished third in scoring, but in the bottom third of almost every defensive category last year.
McHale still doesn't have a rim-protecting center or a Shane Battier on the perimeter. He's in charge of developing rookies Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas and Chandler Parsons into rotation players, and bringing a quarter of the 2009 draft lottery (Jonny Flynn, Terrence Williams, Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill) out of the abyss.
Oh, and he's expected to turn all of that into a Western Conference playoff team.
Les Alexander is fed up.
He purchased the Rockets in July 1993 and immediately won two NBA titles. Since then, his franchise has won exactly four playoff series.
McHale is taking over at a bad time. Houston was on the brink of a championship when Yao Ming went down in Game 3 of the 2009 Western Semifinals against the Lakers. He never returned to health and neither have the Rockets.
Alexander wants a winner and has proven he will do whatever it takes to form one. The only problem is, Houston plays in the Western Conference and has yet to land the superstar that the teams currently ahead of it have.
McHale's mission in year one is to make the postseason. Maybe he gets a pass if the Rockets fail to do so. Rest assured, if they aren't there in year two, McHale's seat on the sideline may be vacant by year three.