Kevin McHale Dishes On His Abrupt Firing, Daryl Morey And Dwight’s Future In The NBA
The Houston Rockets started off the 2015-16 season with three consecutive losses, then four consecutive wins, followed by another four losses, and then the ax fell. Daryl Morey fired head coach Kevin McHale after just 11 games. Had he presided over multiple mediocre seasons, his firing would've been understood as inevitable, but McHale's Rockets finished with better records in each of the four previous seasons, plus they were coming off a Western Conference Finals loss to one of the greatest basketball teams in NBA history. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to think he was skating on thin ice this season, let alone in November.
Apparently he was, or at least that's what it would seem like, given that successful coaches are rarely dismissed mid-season (or, in McHale's case, almost pre-season). That's an awfully short lease for a coach with a winning percentage of .671 since 2013.
Here's how McHale felt about the organization's choice to replace him with one of his less experienced assistants...
"i was surprised. i really was. built up a little equity there for a few years. we started off the season -- actually started off, starting in the summer, james hurt his ankle, he was in poor shape in camp, dwight couldn't do back-to-back practices, talking about dwight not doing back-to-back games until maybe the new year. ty lawson had spent most of the summer with some legal problems, in rehabbing, and trying -- not rehashing injury rehabbing. -- rehabbing injury rehabbing. and both our power forwards weren't starting camp. we were a bad team in camp. i said to the and ownership and to everybody, i said, 'we haven't had good practices yet. i can't understand how we're going to have good games.' you know? our last exhibition game against san antonio, the guys really tried amping it up and they just pounded us. i was like, we have a month-long time of getting everybody back in shape, getting everybody acclimated, trying to figure out how to use ty lawson into the mix of stuff, so when they let me go, i was absolutely shocked. i was."
"i walked in there and they basically said they were firing me. i went, 'oh, my.' so i guess that's the way it went down. i was really surprised, too. the team last year had won 56 games, got to the conference finals. and it wasn't like that team was holding hands and singing calm byah every day. there was always a few things going on with that team. that's just the way that the group is together. we managed it. we worked our way around it. some things we discussed as a team. some things we just let go as a team. i was very surprised in the end that they chose to make that decision. now i'm sitting in scottsdale having coffee and playing golf today. everything's not all bad."
In their first 11 games, Houston ranked 25th in offensive field goal percentage, 27th in defensive field goal percentage, 24th and 29th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. Assuming general manager Daryl Morey's heavy reliance on advanced analytics played at least some part in the decision, it's not a stretch to say that numbers -- not the reality on the court -- prompted McHale's firing.
Mike Greenberg asked him specifically about Morey's approach to the sport, which yielded some insight into the pitfalls of building a roster as if it were an algorithm rather than a collection of human beings.
"they probably use more metrics than most other teams. when i first got there, we had a lot of discussions about metrics and about what certain things meant. i really believe darryl is transitioning into -- of course using metrics is kind of his -- that's what he does but he understands chemistry. we talked about chemistry. when i first got there, we had talked about a lot of stuff. i think, honestly, darryl is moving a little bit more towards a blend. to me, i think metrics is a tremendous tool to use but it can't be your whole toolbox. there's still so many other things you've got to look. you've got to look at players and say do they fit the eye test or am i just getting a bunch of the same type players? do i have enough guys that can drive the ball to the shooters, enough shooters to receive the ball, do good catch-and-shoot guys? do i have a blend of players that can mix together? do i have multiple position players that can play -- that can guard two and three spots? and a lot of different things like that. i really do believe -- they are still involved in metrics but not quite as much as i think everybody thinks it is. i do believe it's a big, big part of it. but not all. in my mind, like i said, i think metrics is a great tool have in your toolbox. but that's like having a hammer in your toolbox and only a hammer you need some other tools."
Since McHale's departure, the Rockets have gone 24-21. Do with that information what you will.
You can watch the full "Mike & Mike" interview, below...
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