Kevin McHale Needs His Coaching Etch-A-Sketch

If you felt a twinge of deja vu when Kevin McHale stepped down as Vice President-GM of the Timberwolves yesterday to concentrate on the job of coaching the mismatch of talent he’s acquired, there’s a good reason for it. After all, we’ve been down this road before, with McHale coaching Minnesota to a 19-12 record after taking over from deposed Flip Saunders and leading the Wolves down the stretch in 2005.

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(McHale’s new play for Rashad McCants.)

That’s a decent record, but according to at least one of the players on that team, the improvement may not have had much to do with McHale’s coaching acumen. According to an interview with Nuggets guard Anthony Carter in the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, McHale was more like a lost puppy than a bloodhound on the scent of a win in his first stint at Minnesota’s helm. Here’s what Carter had to say:

“He didn’t really know all the X’s and O’s, but he had a good assistant coaching staff that was helping him out with a lot of plays. He kind of let us run whatever we wanted.

“He was trying to draw plays, and it was like a little Etch and Sketch. Like a kid just messing around. . . . He just gave the clipboard to the assistant coaches sometimes.”

An Etch-a-Sketch? Really? He’s that bad, Anthony? And, while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be incredibly difficult to sketch out plays on an Etch-a-Sketch?

Then again, maybe McHale should be praised for knowing his limitations. He surrounded himself with assistant coaches Randy Whitman, Sidney Lowe, Jerry Sichting and Don Zierden the first time, a group that bred an NBA head coach (at least until Whitman was fired), a DI NCAA head coach in the ACC (Lowe is at North Carolina State), a WNBA head coach (Zierden leads the Minnesota Lynx) and, well, a Timberwolves assistant. That’s right folks, Jerry Sichting is still on staff in the Twin Cities. Anyone want to take a guess as to who’s running practice and drawing plays this time around?

If things progress the way they did during McHale’s first stint coaching the club, Sichting may be doing a lot more than that, too. According to the Nuggets guard, McHale spent practices watching from the sideline as if he was scouting talent.

“Practice, it was kind of funny,” Carter said. “(McHale) didn’t warm us up and just let us get to playing five-on-five. He’d just sit on the sideline . . . and the other coaches would be coaching.”

Hey, if you can’t have the job you want, make the job you have be one you want, right? Wait, he was the GM before he became the coach? Really? You’re sure? Oh. Well, then forget I mentioned it.

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(OK, Kevin, you go play. I’m going on a popcorn run.)

For what it’s worth, Carter says he thinks McHale will be a much better coach in his second go-round, though little leads us to believe that will be the case. Minnesota is bound to get the new-coach bounce for a few games while players try to impress McHale (which is really the guy they should have been trying to impress anyway, right?), but when things calm down there’s a lot more left to this season than there was to 2005 when Larry Bird’s post man took over.

And even if McHale is a bit rough diagramming plays, there’s always this: He can’t be any worse as a coach than he is as a GM.