October 14, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
It is easy for fans to delineate between an NBA team’s head coach, players and remaining staff. However, the actual dynamics of an NBA organization are undoubtedly something the average fan will never fully understand simply because we will never experience it first hand. As a fan, we see only a portion of things. We enjoy watching a good game, and hopefully a good season. However, a good game and season only result from years of behind-the-scenes hard work and a team that has defined and understands everyone’s role.
There has been plenty of media coverage from the touching moment after last night’s victory over the Boston Celtics between Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett. That display of vulnerability gave me direction for this article. My memory of McHale is dominated by the 1980’s Boston Celtics. I have always thought of him as a talented, tough, hard-working player on both ends of the court. Admittedly, I also cannot deny that I might have called him dirty at one point. What he lacked in Hakeem Olajuwon’s grace he made up for in grit. Ultimately, he remains one of the best players to ever play the game.
After watching last night’s game and doing some actual research on McHale, I realized that my memories of him are ones of McHale the player. McHale the coach is a relatively new creation. His career coaching stats are 84 wins and 98 losses for a .462 winning percentage. This is only his fourth season as a coach, and with only two teams (Minnesota and Houston). He has yet to coach any team for a full 82-game season. It is interesting that a coach’s statistics are much simpler than a player’s. Wins and losses, period. There are no stats for motivation, inspiration, passion, discipline or any other intangible necessity.
The point here is that Kevin McHale and the 2012-13 Houston Rockets are both practically children when it comes to their respective roles in this endeavor. McHale didn’t want to be a coach initially. He worked as an analyst and eventually general manager for his hometown team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, before finally taking over coaching duties. He interviewed for the Chicago Bulls head coaching job in 2010. After a series of interviews, the Rockets chose him as the best candidate to build a champion here and signed him to a 4 year contract before last season.
It may take a great deal of time to find out how this current incarnation of the Houston Rockets will consistently produce more wins than losses. Fortunately, it seems that everyone is fully committed and possesses the requisite skills. Especially in light of recent tragic events, it would behoove the Rockets fan to be patient and enjoy the growing pains just like a parent watching their child grow up.