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McHale fires the first shot

From the PiPress:

Kevin McHale, who was told after meeting with new Minnesota Timberwolves general manager president David Kahn at Kahn's hotel room Tuesday night that he wouldn't be retained as coach of the team, said this morning he wanted to return as coach but never was offered a contract.

"I was willing to come back, but they never offered me a contract," McHale said. "They told me last week they were going in a different direction. I said I think you're making a mistake, but that's up to you guys.

"I told them I know it's been a tough couple of years, but that the team is starting to build, and that they had some good progress last year when Al (Jefferson) was healthy."

McHale said a strong reason why he wanted to return to coach was the Wolves' players.

"The players kept on saying, 'Hey, Kevin, we need you back, c'mon, come back and coach, work with us, we got this thing going,' " McHale said. "I talked to them last night; they were all very upset. But I said it's not my decision."

McHale spoke with Wolves players Tuesday night after learning he wouldn't be retained.

"I felt bad because the guys (players) really want to make a run at it," said McHale, who won't be attending today's Wolves press conference to announce his dismissal. "I told them I was willing to do it; it just didn't work out."

I personally think McHale kind of shoots himself in the foot here.  Cutting through the Iron Range folksiness, all this really does is show that McHale is willing to use his players' likes and dislikes as leverage against his boss.  That type of behavior really makes tough hiring/firing decisions a whole lot easier.   To the very end, McHale was never able to see that the issue here is him; not his players, not his coaches, not anyone else. 

At the end of the day he was too little to see that this had nothing to do with whether or not the players liked him and everything to do with whether or not he could handle his new duties a couple of rings down on the ladder of authority.  "You're making a mistake because the players love me" is not a solid argument.  "You're making a mistake because a 24 win team had a good month" is not a winning hand.  Instead, if he really wanted the job he should have been busy selling his coaching skills and his ability to humbly (and quietly) work under a new head of Basketball Ops who will likely undo many of the things he set in place.  McHale may be a basketball genius but it is kind of baffling to see him unable to wrap his head around the very clear issues that were at play in his quest to stick with the team. 

The inevitable pro-McHale argument will be this: It's just the way he's wired.  He just wanted to be able to speak his mind about the direction of the team if he were to be named coach.  Nonsense.  I'm sure all of us reading this blog can recite story after story about tough working relationships where we had to put personal preferences and feelings aside in order to get what we wanted.  Fall in line soldier, fall in line.  You don't get to tell the new driver how to drive after you put the car in the ditch.

For me, this is incredibly disappointing.  After years of mismanagement, falling behind the front office curve, poor drafts, lazy scouting, and the scapegoating of two good coaches, McHale still finds a way to pin the blame on someone else.  "You're making a mistake."  No Kevin, you are the one who screwed up.  Hats off to David Kahn for being the first person in this organization to call McHale on his BS.

What say you?

UPDATE: McHale continues the pity party with Zgoda:

“He didn’t really give me any reasons,” McHale said, “other than the fact he wanted to make a change.

McHale said the two in their meetings discussed the team’s roster, which McHale had re-assembled after he traded superstar Kevin Garnett away two summers ago, and began making calls to former NBA head coaches to find a No. 1 assistant coach for McHale, but that effort never resulted in a job offer.

“We were talking about me coming back and at some point you’d think a contract (offer) would be made,” McHale said. “It was very non-commital on everything.

Really?  What part of "I want to deal with the coaching search after we get done with the draft" do you think McHale didn't understand?  He was non-committal because he clearly said that they weren't looking for a coach at the moment.   Of course, McHale frames this in such a way where his attitude, past performance, and potential future relationship with the new boss aren't operating factors in Kahn finally making a move.  I'll give McHale this much: His passive-aggressiveness is pure Minnesotan.  He definitely is one of us.

UPDATE II: SeanTO makes an excellent point in the comments:

If Kahn has the authority...

the Kahn has the authority and should use it as he sees fit. If it’s Kahn’s decision, then he tells McHale, not Taylor.

There’s a reason McHale called Taylor right away — he was seeing if Taylor would overrule Kahn. To Taylor’s credit, he’s letting Kahn make the decision.

by SeanTO on Jun 17, 2009 12:09 PM CDT to parent up reply reply

Exactly.  McHale is showing everyone in the world exactly how things worked at 600 First Avenue in the past and why he isn't going to work there in the future: He thinks he has a direct line to the top even after being moved down the ladder.