The Houston Rockets new coach Kevin McHale did not mince words and is already expecting more from the team he is taking over – the playoffs. And if Houston does not make the playoffs, McHale is taking full blame:
The Rockets, he declared, should be a playoff team, and if they’re not he said it would be his fault, even invoking the Tracy McGrady playoff declaration, “it’s on me.”
“They have pieces in place here, very good pieces that could be part of a championship team,” McHale said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs next year. That’s what it is. That’s going to fall on me to do it. If it doesn’t get done, it will be on me.
“We should make the playoffs. That’s how I feel. Once you get in, anything can happen. I’m excited.”
A pretty bold statement from the new head man in Houston. Considering Houston was knocking on the door for the eighth spot in the Western Conference Playoffs this season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. With players such as Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, and Courtney Lee, McHale has a great young nucleus to get Houston into the playoffs.
McHale is following in the footsteps of successful Houston coaches such as Rudy Tomjanovich and Jeff Van Gundy, but will his lack of coaching experience derail his playoff aspirations? Rockets owner Les Alexander doesn’t think so:
“I think a real smart guy, who knows the game, when he starts out and doesn’t have great success, it’s a benefit to him,” Alexander said. “He will now say, ‘Why wasn’t I unbelievably successful right there.’ He will think about it and implement the things he needs.
“Kevin McHale is the perfect fit for this team at this time. You have to have somebody who’s a great leader, a great communicator and understands how to use his staff and the players at all times, and will take input and work with people to make us a great team.”
Indeed McHale may not have the lengthy coaching experience, but he is a former champion, has a defensive-minded approach to an already potent offensive team, respected in the NBA, and that championship pedigree will pay off for a very young Houston team and his goal of making the playoffs.
However, one has to like McHale’s statement. It’s setting the tone for Houston next season. He is sending a message to the players early to get them in the right direction.
For Houston and their fans, they have to like McHale’s boldness.