Posted at 9:19 PM on December 8, 2008
by Chris Dall
When the news came down this morning that the Timberwolves had fired coach Randy Wittman and were replacing him with Kevin McHale, a canine analogy came to mind. McHale is the puppy who's just made a mess on the carpet, and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is sticking his nose in it as punishment. It's about time.
The one problem is that the current incarnation of the Wolves is only the latest in a series of messes Kevin McHale has created during his tenure with the Wolves. And making him coach this team isn't going to make things any better. Yes, he did go 19-12 when he took over as coach for Flip Saunders in 2005, but that team, as you might remember, had a guy named Kevin Garnett. And to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Kevin Garnett is not walking through that door any time soon. Timberwolves fans can only hope that McHale will give the team some kind of identity, whether it be through better defense (unlikely), smarter play, or hustle. But ultimately, it's pretty clear this team is headed for another high lottery pick.
And that leads to the one bright spot of today's manuevers: the removal of Kevin McHale as vice president of basketball operations. If McHale is truly confined to coaching this roster that he's created (devoting himself "100 percent" to coaching, as Taylor said at today's press conference), that means (hopefully) he'll no longer have the ultimate say in personnel moves. And that could be the best thing to happen to this organization in years. Then again, not everyone believes McHale won't continue to have a hand in shaping the roster.
I know. This is small consolation for the fans who would like to see Kevin McHale banished from 600 Target Center for good. But Glen Taylor is like an addict who just can't go cold turkey. So he's taking it in baby steps. And maybe McHale will go the way of Isaiah Thomas, another court legend who proved an abysmal general manager. Once Thomas proved he could do nothing more with the New York Knicks than any of the coaches he hired and fired, he was sent packing. My guess is that McHale will decide that there are other things he'd rather be doing than winning 20 games a season.
But will Fred Hoiberg, who many expect to be the next GM, do any better? That's debatable. He, like everyone else in the Wolves front office, is linked to Kevin McHale and the terrible decisions he's made. Does Glen Taylor not know that there are lots of qualified people outside the state of Minnesota who can run a basketball franchise? Has he not met any of these people in the years he's owned this team? Was Kevin McHale hiding them from him?
Ultimately, Taylor might have to clean house completely and start from scratch.