Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 2/23/12
When Rockets owner Les Alexander and General Manager Daryl Morey hired Kevin McHale to replace Rick Adelman last year, there was doubt cast on the selection. After all, other coaches with more impressive rsums were available, like Lawrence Frank, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Woodson and highly touted assistant Dwayne Casey. McHale had coached a total of 94 NBA games with a sub-.500 record. Exactly what were the Rockets thinking? And was McHale just going for the cash grab? It's only the midpoint of an abbreviated NBA season but McHale appears a good fit and his performance has been commendable. The Rockets' 20-14 record is impressive considering this is a team lacking a true star player; a team which had been a poor defensive group and a club that had to overcome a revoked trade at the outset. Things could be worse, a lot worse. Even McHale admitted he, too, had his doubts after the team's very first practice of training camp. "It was actually frightening," McHale said. "I literally went home and almost cried myself to sleep. That was like the worst basketball I've ever seen in my life. I had ten guys holding their shorts after a minute and a half and I thought, 'Oh, my word. We may not win a game this year.' I was wondering what 0-66 would look like." But several factors have contributed to the Rockets' success thus far: The development of Kyle Lowry as an excellent point guard; the emergence of second-rounder Chandler Parsons; the presence of size in Samuel Dalembert; and McHale's leadership and style. The style is not always player friendly -- he has benched Lowry and Kevin Martin when the job was not getting done and he disciplined Dalembert for missing a shoot around. But players have continued to play hard for McHale and they are buying into the system. The defense can get better but this is a team that adapts to the game of the night. Wednesday night they beat the 76ers with sheer toughness and physical play. "They're buying in to the fact that sometimes we're just going to have to win ugly," McHale said afterwards. They have won games at the offensive end and, at other times, thanks to the bench. As to whether McHale took the job just to pad the bank account, nothing appears farther from the truth. McHale's reaction to a recent loss to the Timberwolves illustrates just how hungry the Hall of Famer is to win as a coach. McHale reviewed the tape of the game over and over until three in the morning. "I had myself so worked up at three o'clock in the morning, I was calling people," McHale said. "Then I knew I had lost my mind. Nobody wants to talk to you at three o'clock in the morning. I was so... ticked. I finally just made a pot of coffee and said, 'I'm just going to stew for three or four hours while I sit here.' "And I honestly wondered, 'What am I doing? Why did I take this job?' Then the guys respond and you go, 'I love coaching.' I'm a nut job like that. But I was like that as a player. There were many nights on back-to-backs when I played poorly the first night, I played the next night on zero sleep." It's only half a season but it's been a good half for the Rockets. It's becoming clear why McHale was chosen.
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