Why Kevin McHale Should be Considered for Coach of the Year
The Houston Rockets have enjoyed a great deal of success as a direct result of the perseverance the team has shown this season. That effort has been spearheaded by James Harden, but if you look into the background you will see someone else. That person is former NBA three time champ and Rockets head coach Kevin McHale.
Despite having to play through many injuries, Kevin McHale’s team has racked up 50+ wins and is battling for second in the NBA’s Western Conference. McHale is now the winningest coach in Rockets history. Not bad for a guy that to some had his job on the line.
James Harden has been the successor of much of the praise from this seasons accomplishments and rightfully so. He has produced and shined on the court all season long. McHale’s troops have played without team starters and key role players all season long.
The Houston Rockets brought in McHale because he’s a winner. McHale has built a system on both ends of the floor that compliments his players skill sets. This system has helped the Rockets to 54 wins, 25 of which have come on the road.
Many factors come into play when looking at McHale for the leagues “coach of the year award”. Even if McHale doesn’t get named, he should absolutely receive some honorable mention for the job he has done this year:
Whole Team Buy-in and Getting the most out of his players
Since coming over from L.A, Howard has absolutely bought into the system. Recently returning from injury, Superman sat down with Harden to define his role with what he called “Harden’s team”. Showing maturity and growth, something we didn’t see in previous stops. A direct reflection of Howard growing under McHale’s guidance in 2015.
James Harden embraced a leadership role in his time with Team USA and brought it back to Houston with him. McHale has helped facility this by giving Harden the tools to run the floor. This season the offense is cater-made to exploit Harden’s strengths. Allowing Harden to facilitate a large majority of the ball distribution. It has worked wonders as the beard is a top 10 player in the assist category.
2014/15 has seen tremendous growth in Terrence Jones, Donatas Montiejunas, and project big Joey Dorsey. McHale has shown trust in Patrick Beverley as the teams starter, in turn it has given Beverley a new found confidence. If you take an in-depth look at the production inside the roster, just about everyone on it has improved on both ends of the floor this year.
Newcomer Corey Brewer has stayed very effective under McHale because of the transition game. Brewer specializes on the fly and his coach has made sure to allow Brewer to play into his own strengths.
Then their is Josh Smith. It would appear if Smith had never really fully bought into any system. Judging by the difference in play and attitude, it is glaring that something has changed in J-Smoove for the better. Some questioned how Smith would gel with his new team and he has answered that question quite clearly.
McHale’s System: Analyzing the Offense
Under McHale’s tutelage, we have witnessed the Rockets playing really good basketball on the offensive side. The system compliments everyone involved. Dribble penetration and the long ball are executed with precision. That is the meat and potatoes of how the Rockets score. The high rate of efficiency tells us it works.
Something that has improved dramatically since 2013/14 is the half court offense. Harden is becoming masterful at initiating offense from the top of the key. Trevor Ariza has also been a welcome addition to McHale’s stable in an area that saw the team struggle in seasons past. McHale’s playbook has helped James Harden blossom into one of the best players on the planet as he will contend for this years regular season MVP.
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Let’s look at where the Rockets strengths in offense lay, and how effective Houston has been when breaking down those specific team stats. The following shooting chart indicates where the Rockets are taking there shots:
It isn’t hard to decipher what Houston is going to do offensively right now. It has been said many times, “you live and you die by the jumper”. Houston is very middle of the road in terms of 3-point percentage at .347, but have made more threes than other team thus far. McHale has this team sticking with what has worked all year. His formula has proved to be effective as this group of players is getting it done.
It isn’t perfect, however the Rockets are a top the league in all facets and areas. But when breaking down the teams ability to put the ball in the basket, they’ve gotten it done. They currently have a +/- of 3.1 and have been solid in the 4th quarter.
Defense Wins Championships
Defense wins championships and McHale’s won three. The Rockets are currently holding opposing teams to a league best .322 from the land beyond the arc. Houston is 17th in opponents points per game, allowing teams to score a shade over 100 per contest. Their are liabilities here too, but the assets are giving them a chance to get stops and convert at the other end.
When it comes to active hands, the Rockets are shining. They are reeking havoc on opposing offensives, racking up 9.5 steals nightly (3rd). This has also helped them with opponent turnovers where they are creating 16.4 (3rd) each time out. However they are forcing these turnovers doesn’t matter because they are making them count. McHale’s troops are hauling in 18.8 points per game (3rd) from the other teams mistakes.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
The injuries have not stopped Kevin McHale from motivating his players to keep pushing forward. When teams are decimated by injury, perseverance becomes the name of the game. The Rockets have played through the adversity.
The team and organization clearly believe in and trust McHale who has done a fantastic job during the 2014/15 regular season motivating players. Providing Houston with an opportunity to stay competitive and win basketball games.
We often forget to credit the man on the end of the bench in the suit. It is him that puts it all together for the players who are responsible for executing the plan. Houston and the league should at the very least, take their hats of to Kevin McHale for the job he has done this year.
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