McHale agrees in principle to coach Rockets

Hall of Famer Kevin McHale has agreed to take over the vacant head coach job with the Houston Rockets.

The Houston Chronicle reports that . A remaining point to be settled will be for McHale and the team to agree on a top assistant coach to join his staff.

McHale was picked  by Houston owner Leslie Alexander over Boston assistant Lawrence Frank and Dallas assistant Dwane Casey.  

It’s an interesting choice considering McHale’s lack of previous success as an NBA head coach.  He has a career record of 39-55 in two previous stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves after earlier serving as the team’s vice president of basketball operations. After he was dismissed in 2009, he has been a popular NBA analyst for TNT and NBA-TV.

The Houston job will provide some unique challenges. The Rockets have a good influx of young talent, but their future is tenuous as long as oft-injured center Yao Ming is a focal point in their plans. The Rockets were the only team in the league with an above-.500  record that failed to make the playoffs this season.

And they will face a tough challenge in the Southwest Division, where all of the teams finished above .500. The balance in the Southwest is best shown by the fact that the Spurs led the division with 61 victories and two other teams from the conference — Dallas and Oklahoma City — played in the Western Conference Finals.

And it’s also a little unusual for a team to dictate assistant coaches that a new coach will hire. reports the Rockets will have much and may even dictate his style of play. Houston D-League coach Chris Finch of Rio Grande Valley will be promoted to McHale’s staff. And Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach Dave Joerger is expected to be a candidate to become McHale’s top assistant, sources told

It will also bear watching as the Rockets transition from a team directed by a coaching veteran to a relative coaching neophyte. The Rockets formerly were coached by Rick Adelman, who ranked eighth in NBA history in coaching victories. McHale’s basketball reputation is based more on his playing career after he was a member of three championship teams with Boston and was selected as an all-time top 50 player in 1996. 

Alexander will receive more buzz by hiring McHale than either of the other two finalists. But it’s uncertain if that excitement will carry over once he starts coaching the team.

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