After rumors that had former NBA great Kevin McHale as a frontrunner for the Houston Rockets head coaching gig, the word is now official with a contract in place to officially succeed Rick Adelman. According to ESPN, McHale beat out other finalists like Lawrence Frank and Dwane Casey. Yet despite being able to flash some high profile bling from his playing days and holding onto his one great draft pick of Kevin Garnett, it remains to be seen what the draw was for Houston execs to pull the trigger on this deal.
The bottom line is that Kevin McHale has been an Isaiah Thomas-lite on this side of his NBA playing days. Several miserable years as a Minnesota Timberwolves executive finally came to an end before the 2009-2010 season, leaving behind a legacy of wasted draft choices, embarrassing sanctions from David Stern for the Joe Smith free agency debacle and a 39-55 interim coaching record in two different stints. As a player, he was one of the best of all time. As anything else basketball-related, he's been a miserable failure.
So why would Houston give up on Adelman? Perhaps it was time for fresh blood, but certainly the failure to make the playoffs cannot rest on his shoulders alone. Adelman went 193-135 in his four full seasons in Houston. He also went 9-10 in the NBA Playoffs, missing the last two seasons, including this year when the Rockets sunk to fifth place in their division with a 43-39 record. Yet the injuries mounted early and often for the Rockets, so it's not all Adelman's fault. Of course, it's assumed Adelman will find another job soon, given he was a finalist for the Lakers job already.
McHale will face the same issues, like health, as Adelman, since no single Rockets player suited up for 82 games last season. A stress fracture kept Yao Ming from playing most of last season, limiting him to five games, and even though he says everything is healing well, it's questionable whether he will even be able to play this year as well. The injury history is long for Ming and it creates all kinds of questions on the team's identity since Yao is such a force when healthy.
The team also has to make up for the departure of team leader and do-it-all forward Shane Battier after trading him to the Memphis Grizzlies next season, but the Rockets do have the No. 14 and No. 23 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. To that end, they can add some needed depth or secure a top player in the lottery if they can move up enough. Still, McHale has shown no ability to make either of these things work in the past. He has his work cut out for him to bring out the best in project center Hasheem Thabeet and find an identity for a team in need of one in a competitive Western Conference.