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Rockets Report Card: Kevin McHale

A look at the job done by the head coach of the Houston Rockets, Kevin McHale, in our ongoing appraisal of the organization through report cards.


Well, we've reviewed all the players on the roster and took a pot shot at a guy whose NBA career was over the moment he signed his contract. Yes, I know where we're headed isn't a player but I write the content so we have to deal with it. Today let's look at the brass. The Rockets, I thoroughly believe, are one of the NBA's premier organizations in the way they are run, the players they produce, and how they handle their business. Today we'll take a look at Kevin McHale and evaluate him on the season.

Kevin McHale became the head coach of the Houston Rockets with the departure of Rick Adelman for the 2011-2012 (lockout shortened) season. Prior to his head coaching job in Houston Kevin was at the helm of the dysfunctional franchise we know as the Minnesota Timberwolves. During that tenure he never oversaw the team during a full season. Let's see what Kevin has brought to the table.

The Numbers

This season Kevin coached the Rockets to a 45-37 record. In two years with the Rockets he has managed to post an overall record of 79-69. Prior to becoming head coach of the Houston Rockets his win-loss record was a less than encouraging 39-55. This season McHale steadied the team to the playoffs where Houston posted a 2-4 record against the Oklahoma City Thunder. All in all Kevin is showing us steady improvement and that definitely relates to the roster that Morey has built though you can have an abundance of talent and still underperform (Los Angeles).

The Good

We did it. For the first time in three years the Houston Rockets made it to the NBA playoffs. Under McHale's first year as coach the Rockets were in it towards the finish line. Unfortunately they collapsed and missed the dance. In his second year and with a franchise star, gutted roster, and mid-season trade the Rockets made the playoffs with the 8th seed. There was some doubt heading towards the end of the season as to whether or not the Rockets would make the post-season, let alone seed anywhere from 6 to 9. When fans began to question and panic the Rockets galvanized and churned out a few more wins to secure a spot in the post-season. This was due in no small part to the prompt time-outs, alterations to game strategy, and the riding of his starters a bit too much.

At the end of the day despite the flaws in some adjustments and playing time issues I don't think anyone here at The Dreamshake has any regrets because for the first time in three years the city got to experience the playoffs. What makes it even more encouraging is that the Rockets look as though they'll be a staple of the playoffs for years to come. McHale's leadership has quite a bit to do with the continued development and improvement in the chemistry and performance of this team.

Grade: A+

The Bad

Questionable content. McHale had quite a few rotational decisions this season that raised question marks. He had an adherence to his veterans that at times seemed baffling and a few gaffes that hurt the Rockets for stints. Perhaps the most stunning problem with McHale's coaching was James Harden's propensity to pound the ball and launch ill-advised three pointers. Ultimately though we have to answer a few questions before we decide to indict Kevin. Ask yourself, do we REALLY think an NBA coach would say "Let James dribble out the clock and shoot a bad shot?"; do we REALLY believe that the Rockets make the playoffs if we keep Donatas Motiejunas in the lineup while he struggled all year?; is McHale REALLY the first coach to have his line up learn to play through rough stretches in order to teach them? In order, if we're honest with ourselves, I think the answers to these questions will say a lot about how we understand team building and coaching works. Yes, this means the grade will be good.

Grade: B-

The Ugly

Adversity. Kevin's entire season was filled with it. His season began with a huge overhaul to the roster he coached the year before. The season began with only four players on the roster who weren't new (Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson, and Greg Smith) and a new franchise star given to him the day before the season started. The season took a turn for the worse when Kevin's daughter tragically passed away long before she should have. In a show of support for their coach the Rockets wore green on their uniforms in honor of Sasha McHale. This was not only a show of support but it was also an endorsement of their coach from the players. It was moving. Not long after Kevin's return the Houston Rockets front office decided to ship out his entire power forward lineup for Francisco Garcia and Thomas Robinson. Despite the loss of that rotation Kevin figured out lineups that worked and produced and this team made it to the post-season.

Grade: A


Though some may question Kevin's decision-making process or some of the on-court decisions there's no real arguing with the results we saw. One can argue that player development should have been the focal point of the season through staggered minutes or some other method but is anyone going to argue with making the playoffs? Despite the problems tossed at Kevin can we really argue that he didn't show results? Maybe the worst thing we can say about Kevin McHale is the report that he was pushing for the draft of Royce White (Which legitimately would earn him an F if we knew Royce would have jumped off the deep end the moment he signed a deal). When we reflect on the last year and ask ourselves the questions I posted above do we really think we can lay as much criticism as McHale gets fairly or is it a question more of personal disagreement and a lack of satisfaction with anything less than perfection? Enjoy complaining in the comments because here comes the...

Grade: A

Feel free to sound off in the comments, e-mail anger at me and tweet awful things and threats to @QuestionablyBD.