Rockets hire Kevin McHale as new head coach

Houston Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander today named NBA Hall of Famer Kevin McHale as the 12th head coach in team history. A seven-time NBA All-Star, McHale helped lead Boston to three NBA championships during a 13-year playing career with the Celtics. Following his playing career, McHale spent 16 seasons as an executive with the Minnesota Timberwolves, including two stints as the team’s head coach during the 2004-05 and 2008-09 seasons. Most recently, McHale served as an in-studio analyst for TNT and NBA TV.

“Kevin McHale is a proven NBA champion who has the leadership skills and basketball knowledge necessary to guide our team into the future,” said Alexander. “Kevin’s hard-nosed work ethic and tenacity on the court led him to a Hall of Fame career and a legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest low-post players of all time. I’m looking forward to seeing Kevin share his unique basketball knowledge and experience as he leads our talented group of players into the next era of Rockets basketball.”

Upon his retirement as an NBA player, McHale joined the Timberwolves as a television analyst and special assistant. On Aug. 18, 1994, new Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor promoted him to Assistant General Manager. He continued to broadcast Minnesota games and work as an executive until May 11, 1995, when he succeeded Jack McCloskey as Vice President of Basketball Operations. In this role, McHale was credited with the hiring of Flip Saunders – the franchise’s most successful head coach – in 1995, the drafting of high school phenom Kevin Garnett with the fifth overall pick of the 1995 NBA Draft, and assembling the core talent that resulted in seven playoff runs from 1997-2004 and highlighted by a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2004.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Alexander and the entire Rockets organization for offering me this exciting opportunity to return to coaching with a first-class organization like the Rockets,” said McHale. “As we explored the opportunity to come to Houston, it felt like the right situation for me. I enjoy the competitive nature of our game and I am looking forward to getting to work with the very talented roster of players that are already in place here in Houston.

McHale logged his first coaching stint after taking over for Saunders on Feb. 12, 2005, and leading the Timberwolves to a record of 19-12 to finish out the 2004-05 season. After hiring Randy Wittman as head coach prior to the 2005-06 season, McHale returned to his post as Vice President of Basketball Operations until he stepped down on Dec. 8, 2008 and transitioned into his second stint as head coach of the Timberwolves by taking over for Wittman. Beginning with a victory at New York (12/26/08), McHale helped the Timberwolves rebound with a 12-4 mark over their next 16 outings, which included a five-game winning streak (1/2/09-1/10/09). McHale was also named Western Conference Coach of the Month for Jan. 2009 after guiding the Timberwolves to a 10-4 mark during that month. Minnesota’s ascent under McHale was derailed that season when leading scorer Al Jefferson sustained a season-ending knee injury at New Orleans (2/8/09).

Prior to his NBA front office career, McHale distinguished himself as one of the game’s most successful players at all levels of his playing career. In 1992, he was elected to the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame. To coincide with the University of Minnesota’s 100th Anniversary, he was selected as the top player in the history of Minnesota men’s basketball on Feb. 18, 1995. During the 1997 NBA All-Star Game, he was honored as one of the NBA’s Top-50 Players for the league’s first half-century. On Oct. 1, 1999, McHale was recognized for his achievements on the court with induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. On July 8, 2000, he was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.

InsideHoops.com editor Jeff Lenchiner has praised McHale as owner of the finest low-post moves in the history of the NBA.

During his storied 13-year career with the Celtics, McHale was a seven-time NBA All-Star (1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991) and helped lead Boston to three NBA championships (1981, 1984 and 1986), five Eastern Conference titles and eight Atlantic Division crowns. He was voted the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year twice (1984 and 1985) and was selected to the All-NBA First Team in 1987. He was also named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team three times (1986, 1987 and 1988) and the Second Team on another three occasions (1983, 1989 and 1990). Overall, the 6-10 forward/center averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in 971 career regular season games. In 169 playoff contests, he increased his averages to 18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds. A first-round selection (third overall) by the Celtics in the 1980 NBA Draft, McHale went on to earn NBA All-Rookie First-Team accolades in 1981.

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