Perhaps McHale's the problem

Kevin McHale participated in the popular sport of messenger shooting Thursday, ripping into the media for "erroneously" reporting that the Minnesota Timberwolves were on the verge of hiring Dwane Casey as the team's new coach.

Kevin McHale participated in the popular sport of messenger shooting Thursday, ripping into the media for "erroneously" reporting that the Minnesota Timberwolves were on the verge of hiring Dwane Casey as the team's new coach.

By early afternoon Friday, news organizations in the Twin Cities had confirmed Casey was going to be announced as the Wolves coach at a 4 p.m. press conference.

Which can only leave us with this conclusion: McHale, Minnesota's vice president of basketball operations, is to the truth what Latrell Sprewell is to professional effort.

A person associated with a professional sports organization hammering the media is nothing new. Lying to the media is nothing new. Lying to fans through the media is nothing new. So it's not like McHale invented a villainous way of dealing with the public that had not yet been tried a million and a half times before.

But in this case wouldn't it behoove McHale to not hiss lies through his teeth at every opportunity, if for no other reason than it further damages his credibility?


And that's a credibility, mind you, that is already suffering a gap wider than the one found between Alfred E. Newman's front teeth.

We hate to go this route today, when the Wolves are celebrating the hiring of a new coach, but is it possible that when it comes to constructing a championship-caliber NBA basketball team, the Minnesota born-and-bred hero Kevin McHale doesn't know his Ndudi Ebi from a hole in the ground?

It's not like there is ample evidence to dispute the theory.

Billionaire Glen Taylor bought the Wolves in March 1995. He hired McHale as his VP and Flip Saunders as his general manager in May 1995. In the most foregone conclusion in Minnesota sports history, Saunders replaced Bill Blair as the team's coach in December 1995.

That means prior to Saunders' firing in the middle of last season, the Wolves trio of brain wizards was in place for a decade. The track record is hardly one to brag about.

The trio made one outstanding move very early in that lengthy time span - the drafting of a teenaged Kevin Garnett in 1995.

There was also one utterly disastrous move - the under-the-table signing of mediocre Joe Smith orchestrated by Taylor and McHale in 2001 that cost the franchise years of draft choices and has crippled it ever since.

In the meantime, there have been dozens of other transactions and draft choices ranging from acceptable at best (the drafting of Wally Sczcerbiak) to downright embarrassing (pick a draftee, any draftee, aside from Garnett and Wally).


Even the one blockbuster draft-day trade Minnesota has tried during the McHale era backfired catastrophically. The Wolves dealt Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury, who later weaseled his way out of Minneapolis. There is little McHale could do about the machinations of Marbury, who was expected to anchor the point guard position and make magic with Garnett for a decade. But has the franchise ever truly recovered since that grand plan went awry?

Answer: Minnesota has advanced past the first round of the playoffs once in its 16-year history. And for 10 years of that history, one of the best players in the game has been leading the way.

The bottom line needs to be this: The Wolves are only marginally closer (because of Garnett) to winning an NBA championship today than they were in 1995 when McHale came aboard as the brains of the operation.

Saunders clearly overstayed his welcome on the bench, and by the end his words and actions had lost all meaning. Taylor deserves his share of blame for the Smith fiasco and other dealings, but he is the money man and going nowhere.

That leaves McHale. It is time he's held responsible for the product he's putting on the floor. He's had a decade to show his moxie as a general manager and - aside from one season during which the Wolves caught Sprewell and Sam Cassell in a good frame of mind - McHale's been unable to do it.

McHale's closet overflowed with draft-day skeletons years ago. Mark Davis, Paul Grant, Gordon Malone, Andrae Patterson, Will Avery, Igor Rakocevic, Loren Woods, Marcus Taylor, Rick Rickert, Blake Stepp and, of course, the legendary Ndudi Ebi.

Yes, the Wolves have a new coach. But they still have the same roster of aging, slow, unathletic and sometimes marginally interested players. For that they can thank McHale, since he doesn't have his old buddy Saunders to kick around anymore.

Maybe that is exactly where the problem lies.


Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m.-noon Saturday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or

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