Some came into 2014-15 wondering if Kevin McHale's job would be on the line if the Houston Rockets struggled out of the gate. Instead, the Rockets' 20-7 record heading into Christmas Day led Houston to commit to three more years with McHale on its bench.
The Rockets made things official via the team's website:
The Houston Rockets announced today that they have agreed to a three-year contract extension with head coach Kevin McHale. As the 12th head coach of the Houston Rockets, McHale, has led the team to one of the most successful periods in franchise history. The fourth year coach holds a career-record of 153-104 (.595) with the Houston Rockets, making McHale the winningest coach in franchise history by win percentage.
“Kevin is an integral part of the Rockets family,” said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, “He embodies the leadership, passion, knowledge, and team-first qualities we need as we continue our pursuit of bringing another NBA Championship to the City of Houston and Rockets fans all over the world."
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the news Wednesday and also provided the financial details:
Rockets owner Leslie Alexander commented on the deal, per Fox 26's Mark Berman:
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey chimed in on Twitter about the extension, too:
McHale, 57, is in his fourth season in Houston. The Rockets have gone 153-104 during his tenure, making the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. McHale was in the final year of his original contract, which expedited the team's need to make a decision about his future.
Houston's fourth-place standing in the Western Conference isn't a massive step up on the surface—the Rockets finished there last season—but it is more impressive when considering the team's roster turnover. General manager Daryl Morey dealt key reserves Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik this offseason in his dogged approach of landing a third superstar while he also allowed Chandler Parsons to sign with rival Dallas in free agency.
With frontcourt starters Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones missing extended time with injuries, it'd be easy to excuse Houston and McHale for taking a marked step backward. But James Harden has been an MVP candidate, Trevor Ariza has proved an adept replacement for Parsons, and Donatas Motiejunas has developed into a solid two-way big.
Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk offered his thoughts on McHale's extension:
McHale's work with Houston's makeshift lineup has been the best of his coaching career, and the Rockets are adding pieces for what could be an extended playoff run. They traded spare parts for forward Corey Brewer earlier this month, and Wojnarowski reported that free-agent forward Josh Smith will sign with them once he clears waivers at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. Howard and the recently deposed Smith are close friends from their AAU days in Atlanta, and the Rockets believe Smith can step into their starting 4 spot, per Wojnarowski.
It appears as though everything is snowballing in the right direction for Houston after a sea of uncertainty in the last half of 2014. McHale deserves credit for helping keep the ship afloat. Morey is doing just that by awarding the formerly embattled coach a little breathing room regarding his future.
That said, another first-round exit this spring may change the conversation.
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