Blogtable: Fallout in Houston after Kevin McHale’s firing

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Fallout in Houston after firing? | Best comeback story? | Cousins or Karl in Sacramento?

VIDEOKevin Mchale reportedly fired by Houston

> Kevin McHale was fired by the Rockets today. Right move or wrong move? And what does new coach J.B. Bickerstaff need to do to right this Rocket ship?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Unfortunately, the coach is easier to fire than the players. Unless Kevin got real dumb over the summer, he’s the same coach that got Houston to the Western Conference finals last season. It’s the players who aren’t playing up to par. But, that’s the deal for NBA coaches. The wins are because of the players; the losses are their fault. J.B. Bickerstaff can’t make Dwight Howard healthy or shake Harden out of his funk, but maybe he can get some of the younger guys to contribute more.  He’s a big fan of Clint Capela, and maybe we’ll get even more from him than we’ve seen so far.

Steve Aschburner, Wrong move, so wrong that I’m inclined to refer to them henceforth as the “Wrockets.” If management trots out the tired, old “he lost the locker room” justifications, then Houston, it has a problem. I thought McHale and his staff did wonders to steer that crew through injuries to 54 and 56 victories the past two seasons, reaching the West finals last spring. But talent can only take a team so far for so long unless it’s backed up with leadership and character. I don’t see much of either on the roster, at least not coming from self-absorbed big dogs James Harden and Dwight Howard. Maybe the Wrockets will be able to analytics their way out of this mess but I’m skeptical. Good luck to J.B. Bickerstaff, who has earned a shot and now is stuck with this one. Best thing he has working for him? The big lazy move — firing the coach — has been stripped away, shifting any further blame to the team’s performance and alleged stars.

Fran Blinebury, Wrong move, because McHale didn’t suddenly become incompetent in the six months since he took the Rockets to the Western Conference finals. Only move, because it’s what teams do when they can’t hit the reject button on the roster. First things first for J.B. Bickerstaff and that’s to repair the gaping holes in the Rockets’ defense, which has gone from a level near the top of the league to practically scraping bottom. But none of that will help in the long run if he can’t repair dysfunctional, broken relationships at the core of the lineup.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Wrong move. You get where management is coming from — the team looked terrible in the opening weeks, they can’t let another season slip away. But if McHale was the right guy in the playoffs about seven months ago, when Houston beat the Mavericks in five and had a great comeback against the Clippers before losing to the better team in the Western Conference finals, he was the right guy now. The personality of the roster is the problem, not the coach. Bickerstaff will be a new voice, which sometimes helps, but he won’t be able to right that part of the ship.

Shaun Powell, Right or wrong move? As always, it depends. If the Rockets wake up and get right, then fine. If not, they panicked, because just months ago McHale coached them past the Clippers in an epic playoff rally, took them to the West finals and earned a contract extension. He’s suddenly a crummy coach? Well, either J.B. Bickerstaff or Tom Thibodeau, if they hire him, better be right.

John Schuhmann, If this move gets the Rockets to play like they care about whether or not their opponent puts the ball in the basket, then it was the right move. But there was no excuse for not caring in the first place, and I doubt that McHale was to blame in that regard. Last season, the Rockets ranked sixth in defensive efficiency, even with their three-time Defensive Player of the Year playing only 41 games. This season, they rank 29th, and have been terrible whether Dwight Howard is playing or not. He ranks at the bottom of the league in rim protection, in part because his perimeter teammates can’t contain the ball. The film shows too many examples of Rockets defenders playing downright lazy on defense. There are surely other issues, but they can be addressed once the team collectively wakes up and starts playing defense like it matters, which it does.

Sekou Smith, Wrong in so many ways for McHale, but potentially right for the Rockets and Bickerstaff. McHale’s serving as the fall guy after pushing this crew to 110 regular season wins the past two seasons and last season’s wild playoff ride that ended in the Western Conference finals. He lost his powers after 11 games? Ridiculous. The Rockets have much bigger issues that begin and end inside the locker room (hence Tuesday’s players-only meeting). And that’s where J.B. Bickerstaff‘s opportunity comes into play. If he can find a way to inspire James Harden, Dwight Howard and this crew to commit themselves to improving defensively from the bottom of the NBA pile, there is a chance this ends up being the right and best move the Rockets could have made to salvage this season. But right or wrong, 11 games in … we need time before it becomes clear.

Ian Thomsen, There’s not much that any coach can do until the Rockets get the leadership they need on defense from James Harden and Dwight Howard. The Rockets’ two best players should be dominating that end of the court and thereby establishing the highest and most meaningful standard for their teammates. It should be flattering to Harden and Howard that the responsibility to fix this is on them. Maybe a new voice — or the shock of losing McHale — will get the message through to them, which is a shame.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: If this turns things around and propels the Rockets to the top of the Western Conference, I suppose it will be looked at as the right move. But right now it certainly doesn’t feel like firing the coach who just got a three-year extension and took you to the Western Conference finals is the right move. If Bickerstaff can get them to commit defensively, that’s great, but this isn’t a team built to survive on their defense. To me they should go the other way and commit to their offense … and I’m pretty sure there’s a coach named Mike D’Antoni available out there and known for preaching offense.


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  13. MadMax says:

    Not a smart move by the Rockets and Morey. As a longtime Rockets fan and Houston native I expect better decisions from Les Alexander. Personally I don’t think this would’ve happened back in the Carroll Dawson days. This was clearly an emotional decision, there is no logic behind this. NBA teams slump all the time, the good teams always get out of them. Not only was Kevin McHale one of the best PF’s to play the game, but also one of the brightest basketball minds and best coaches in the NBA. Very articulate and always seemed prepared for each and every game. Hey he learned from one of the best (Red). Nothing against J.B., but I just can’t see this team making the playoffs. Good for J.B. to get his audition to coach, but he now has the added pressure to be the savior of last year’s overachieving WCF appearance Rockets team.

  14. Mike Waltz says:

    It’s ALL James Harden and that DUMB beard!!! The beard that once brought you so much strength, has now become your “Kryptonite”… Shave that disgusting thing already man! We get it, it’s your “Logo, Trend, Your “cool” identity… But seriously HOW LONG have you had that thing??? Time to switch it up man… You’ve been sweating in that things for years now??? Who knows what you have festering up inside that thing…

    And get those “Toof-is-es” fix my man! You’re a multi millionaire… That Grill needs some work…

    Oh, and on Coach McHale! Dear, Rockets Management… Way to find a “Scape-Goat”… Maybe look at your team first and the so called, “Leaders”… I know they are your “Pride and Joy”, but to put this on Coach McHale, who was and is, (and WILL continue to be, when he gets picked up by another team, VERY quickly) That is just Sad and pretty “petty”… Is was and is, in no way his fault for the slow start… (and it’s only the first couple of games management! Way to overreact…)

    VERY, VERY bad move… I’m afraid this “Change/Move” is going to come back and bite you guys in the behind….

    • Mike Waltz says:

      I want to apologize for the first part of this “comment”… (I would delete it if I could, but there is no option for that). Although I am not a fan Of James Harden, and think he’s a bit too big for his britches, etc. I should not have talked smack on “The Beard’s” Beard, grill, etc. I’m just very disappointed in the Rockets Management, because although I’m not a big fan of Harden and the Rockets, I am a big fan of Kevin McHale, and think that the Rockets management have done wrong by firing him. And, I do really hope that McHales firing was all management decision, and not because of certain team members and players in the locker room. Because that would be a shame. Coach McHale gave the Rockets, 110% and got them to the Western Conference Finals, in what? The first time in how long? Coach McHale has definitely not be done right by the Rockets, and that is sad. Please negate the fist part of the above comment.

  15. Eric Curtis says:

    BAD, BAD, BADDDDD Move for the Rockets! I feel so bad for Coach McHale… It is in NO way his fault for the “Slump” that the Rockets are in… Man, OH, Man… People/Management/etc, etc… Are so eager to “Fire” someone and put the blame on someone for a “bad” start to a season, and/or a “slump”… It’s ONLY the first, what??? First, or a little bit over the FIRST 1/8 of the WHOLE season!? WAY too “Brash” of a move by the Rockets, when Coach McHale’s record the past few seasons with the Rockets speak for themselves!

    I only see things going from bad to worse… But don’t say I, (or many others) didn’t tell you so Rockets management… I think you’ve really put your season in a “pickle” now…

    But, as a Laker and Clipper fan… (L.A. Fan) I think this might be a real positive… Because I’m pretty sure that the Rockets will continue to “implode”… And WHO are they going to replace Coach McHale with??? The guy was and is a DARN fine coach! Again, BAD move Rockets… But Great for the rest of the Western Conference… Just one more team that I feel, WITHOUT Coach McHale will NOW be taking a tremendous step backwards, and free up the West/Just make the West a bit easier on the other legit contenders… (Clippers, Spurs, Warriors, Oklahoma City…) 🙂

  16. good for Lakers says:

    Bad for Rockets…good for Lakers…if they would only fire Byron Scott and hire Mchale. Rockets are silly to let him go.

    • Eric Curtis says:

      Agree with you 100% !!! 🙂 The Rockets are taking a big step “BACKWARDS”, with the “Letting Go” of such a DARN FINE Coach… Feel bad for Coach McHale, (Job Wise), but have never really liked the Rockets, so this is a “POSITIVE” for the rest of the teams in the Western Conference… (Especially the 3 – 4 teams that are legit contenders for the Finals…)

  17. TheRealJet says:

    Seems unfair (McHale seemed like a great coach), but who know’s what’s really happening in an NBA locker room other than all of the team’s insiders (players, coaches, management, ect). Is it time for Kenny the Jet Smith (seems like he would be a great coach) to pull a Steve Kerr and leave TNT for a coaching gig? If there ever was a team Kenny would want to coach you’d think it would be Clutch City. Unless KenNY is saving himself for NY, but who really want’s to dance with the fat girl at the prom even if you secretly love her personality.

  18. Nore says:

    I’m wondering that only sekou smith mentioned the players only meeting which was held right before the management of the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale. Personally I highly doubt that a Management like that, who loves to gamble would fire a proven coach after just seven games – i think that the players weren’t pleased with the style of coaching Kevin McHale offered and went to the management to tell them they should fire McHale – which is to my mind kind of sneaky … But would really not suprise me if you think about the fact that Howard is part of that team – Howard / Stan van Gundy anyone??

  19. Antonio Perez says:

    Houston we have a problem

    actually 2 problems



  20. Mark says:

    McHale is the scape goat. Harden imagines he’s way better than he is and Dwight hasn’t learned a single post move from McHale or Hakeem in his time in Houston – he’s super athletic but there’s nothing between his ears and he plays like he doesn’t care. Sure he’s had injuries but that only excuses so much.

  21. asdfrank says:

    They should pick up Scott Brooks…maybe he can make them play defense and if nothing else it might make it more likely to pick up KD next season.

  22. George Sey says:

    Bad move. The players are just lazy and Howard is not serious. No quality point guard since trading Aaron Brooks. Houston is
    clueless than New York in trades and keeps getting lousy players. Ty Lawson for Smith wierd

  23. kwardradio says:

    Hmm. 4-7 is not even that bad a record, considering they played so poorly as described. Seems way too early in the season to fire anybody unless it’s just abundantly clear that it won’t work, so maybe that’s the case here. Guess they get the benefit of the doubt, it’s not like it matters if we the fans understand it or accept it or however we feel about it. It was the right decision because the owner made it, or the GM or whoever. Rockets have to try to forget this start and figure out what works. Seriously, 4-7 , they could be 0-11 and it still wouldn’t be a lost season YET.

  24. Leon Smith says:

    It’s the curse of the Kardashian…

  25. Pippen33 says:

    The stars need a mirror to look into… Harden look in the mirror if you see a Kardeshian behind you run… Howard look in the mirror… its ok.. just keep looking.

  26. DrPhill says:

    Wow what a disgraceful decision!! Has nothing to do with the coach, it was all the players fault. However Thibs would be a good coach for this team, but they wont be winning any championships.

  27. Mark from Bay area says:

    Honestly, Dwight Howard is useless player that victimized McHale.
    Ever since he left Orlando, he has been the biggest problem for any team to have.
    He does not have any skill, no shooting touch, no leadership, and no defense at all.
    He is so overrated that people used to think any team that has Howard would have robust defense inside.
    The truth is Rockets are blown away with Howard on the floor defensively.
    He cannot do anything right.

    Although James Harden is a ball hogger, he makes timely decision to make Rockets win.
    He is not a great leader, but he has a showmanship.
    Howard is everyone’s enemy and he should retire if he keeps draining payroll for the Rockets.
    Once a fan said from the bench behind “Hey, Superman, Why are you always hurt, and blame everything on injury and coach?”

  28. blimey says:

    the problem with Houston Rockets is amongst players itself… no conviction, no will nor desire to win, they ust play, they dont play to win. i mean every single one of them…

    Good luck Houston Rockets, you are much worst than you ever thought…

  29. Steve says:

    It’s the plates harden has not been playing up to his standard and Dwight Howard has been the only superstar who has its I’d very wrong to have fired McHale cause none if the starters have been playing up to their standards!!!!

  30. sanjay says:

    mc-cale is a good coach but soft. this team needs a serious hard nosed no nonsense coach who can put his finger down and make stars play according to his tunes. unfortunately at present no body is around like that. former chicago coach is too one dimensional, mark is too nice. So I have no idea who can step inn. I think it is time kenny the jet smith took over! He can do ala kerr as well!

  31. Rockets fan says:

    I do not like Kevin McHale that much, but it is only 11 games from the season start. Considering what he contributed last season, it is cold blood. I do not like the reality Tom Thibodeau visited Rockets’ training camp. I do not like Kevin McHale got fired just in 11 games. Yes, it is business, but the fault should be on Harden and his Kardashians….

  32. Ganoush says:

    RIght move of course. Something needs to wake up the big dogs. Something always happens when a person spends time with that family that begins with a K

  33. Kyle Stanley says:

    I think firing Kevin McHale was one of the stupidest things that the Rockets could’ve done in franchise history. I mean c’mon, you guys went to the playoffs 3 times in a row. It’s not the coach’s fault. The Rockets have outstanding individual players, not outstanding team players. I mean look at it this way, Harden wants the ball, Dwight wants the ball, EVERYONE wants the ball on that team. No sense of team playing. Secondly, it’s the defense. They don’t play defense what so ever on that team. Seriously it’s like they just watch the ball being shot and brought up the court. They are losing to teams this year that they had no problem beating last year. So what if they beat the Thunder and the Clippers, they had a good night. But still, allowing the Celtics to score 111 on them is just plain ridiculous. All in all firing the HC is the stupidest thing they could’ve done this entire year. Good luck finding a new one who was as good as him!

  34. sid says:

    Wow! Seems like the team played soo bad – they got what they wanted!
    Someone look at the effort that team made the last games – to play so bad after last year being so good, leaves only the conclusion they are doing it on purpose. Something went very wrong off court in the locker room.
    So with a broken relationship between team and coach – it’s a pretty sad but unavoidable decission. Let’s see how much they miss Kevin after a few month hardliner Tom starts to rule.

  35. Kevin j. says:

    I heard from somebody really credible that Scott Brooks but Tom Thibodeau will be a good fit for the Houston Rockets you talking for like the NBA nation

  36. Lovins says:

    James Harden, the self-proclaimed MVP and “best player in the league”, is shooting 37% and 26% from 3 (while attempting 9 per game). So blaming 4-7 on the coach instead of their best player is pretty dumb.

  37. kanuk says:

    dwight howard is the problem as he has been everywhere else.

  38. skyler says:

    This move was so stupid. Kevin Mchale was a great coach. He led them to the conference finals and now just because the rockets aren’t doing well, they think its his fault. HIRE TOM THIBIDEAU!!!!!!

  39. ttkin says:

    Honestly, Lang suggesting a team with Dwight Howard on the roster hire Mike D’Antoni might be the funniest dumb thing i will ever read haha.

  40. Fhodi says:

    I think they fired McKale simply because he lets the Celtics humiliate them so badly on their own floor.

  41. Hector r. cruz says:

    Look at the Lakers coach and knicks coach they have all fail there team while coach Kevin Mchale took us from the eight seat to the 4 seat in west to the 2nd seat and My favorite team fires him just because the players aint getting along in the court Skills wise and making easy mistakes I hope a loyal team picks him as there new coach.

  42. Maine says:

    Lakers need this man

  43. Kasper says:

    Agree with Tom. How can Whitaker seriously suggest Mike D’Antoni as new coach. Didn’t you Watch the 12-13 season. It didn’t seemed Howard and D’Antoni were the best match. Nuggets GM early candidate for executive of the year, for sending Lawson to Rockets.

  44. Vicente says:

    It’s a bad move I’m a die hard Rockets fan. Yes Kev isint a great head coach I think he’s more of a big man developmental coach (Terrence Jones) We should hire thibodeau

  45. Kasper says:

    I agree with Tom. How can Whitaker suggest Mike D’antoni? – Didn’t he Watch the 12-13 season?

    • Halo says:

      Yeah. And… did you watch the roster he had then?

    • Halo says:

      Ok. Perfect. Now, to be a perfect contender to the title, the Rockets only need minor tweaks:
      – a coach
      – a reliable center
      – a leader who acts as a leader and not just thinks to be it
      – a defense
      – a point guard

  46. Mpinduzi says:

    McHale is definitely a scapegoat. He got credit he didn’t deserve when they overachieved last season. Now he gets blamed for the complete lack of effort put forth by his team. Who can convince these guys to start playing defense again? Maybe Tom Thibideaux, or Scottie Brooks.

  47. vern says:

    Dumb move! Same coach that got you to conference finals you fire 11 games into the season. Maybe id Howard would play like the center he’s supposed to be the team would be playing better.

  48. Missing AI says:

    Wrong move on so many levels… Both Harden and Howard are weak leaders whom think too highly of themselves. Where Howard goes problems rise. I think Ty Lawson should be coming off the bench and P Beverly should start. Beverly is much better of a defensive player and that’s what Rockets are lacking.

  49. theork says:

    mchale is not a premium coach obviously. cheap.
    Dwight howard, aka Dwight “rest” howard eating the salary cap for 7points and 8 rebonds, smiles and goaltendings. (sometimes a 20/15 but he needs one week of rest after that, he was DONE after the lakers injury…but did not tell nothing for the max money.)
    Harden, ego sick, autoptoclamed mvp, no defense, bad mentality, immature and just good to have in a fantasy team.
    so you take dwightmare, harden, and mchale ? houston, you are looking for problems.

  50. catscradlestudios says:

    Dear Coach McHale,
    The Timberwolves are awaiting your call.

  51. 250rninja says:

    Wow. I knew the Rockets were in a funk, but firing the coach that got you to the western conf finals? Feels like the wrong move, but then I can’t tell you the best way to fix the Rockets either. Time will tell, but if the Rockets don’t make the playoffs this season, who will be blamed next? The new coach? It’s the players that aren’t playing defense.

  52. Tom says:

    Hahaha Lang Whitaker is CRAZY! Mike D’Antoni?! You trying to drive Howard out of Houston like D’Antoni drove him out of LA?

    D’Antoni doesn’t need a team like this and vice versa, he needs a young hungry team willing to run with effort…

  53. I believe the Rockets can be the best team in the league, but you just fired a big part of that team. He is the same guy that has led the Rockets to the playoffs every year since he’s been there. I think they made the wrong move. I believe James Harden is the best player in the league. He is a great leader and now is a big time to show it. They have to get better on offense and defense. They really need to turn up the intensity on both ends of the floor and put in max effort. They will get out of this slump and James Harden will lead them to the NBA championship.

  54. Jdub455 says:

    Wrong in the sense that it was done a bit early… also i think lawson’s skillset doesnt mesh well with beard. They need a pure pg not a scoring one.

    • Roger Tornga says:

      What you say makes sense. What has changed? Ty Lawson addition. Josh Smith subtraction.

      But Josh didn’t start. Ty does and its not working.