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Kevin Edward McHale (born December 19, 1957) is an American former professional basketball player who starred for thirteen seasons in the NBA for the Boston Celtics. He is currently an executive (Vice President of Basketball Operations) with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.

Early lifeEdit

Kevin McHale was born to a part-Irish American father, Paul Austin McHale, and a Croatian-American mother, Josephine Patricia Starcevich, in Hibbing, Minnesota. In his senior season at Hibbing High School McHale was named Minnesota's Mr. Basketball of 1976 and led his squad to a runner-up finish in the AA Minnesota State Championship game.

In 1992, McHale was elected to the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame.

CollegeEdit

The 6 ft 10 in (209 cm) McHale played basketball at the power forward position for the University of Minnesota from 1976 to 1980, with career averages of 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

He was named All-Big Ten in 1979 and 1980 and still ranks second in school history in career points (1704) and rebounds (950).

In 1995, to coincide with the University of Minnesota's 100th anniversary, he was selected as top player in the history of University of Minnesota men's basketball.

NBA highlightsEdit

McHale was a part of what is considered one of the league's best-ever frontlines with small forward Larry Bird and center Robert Parish. The trio of Hall of Famers became known as the "Big Three" and would lead the Celtics to five NBA Finals appearances and three NBA Championships, in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

Possessing a wide variety of offensive moves close to the basket the agile, long-armed McHale played in seven National Basketball Association All-Star Games between 1984 and 1991. He led the NBA in field goal percentage in 1987 and 1988, shooting 60.4 percent each season. Also a standout defensive player, McHale was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team six times. He twice blocked nine shots in a game, the most ever by a Boston Celtics' player (blocked shots did not become an official NBA statistic until the 1974 season).

For the first five years of his career McHale primarily came off the bench for the Celtics, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1984 and 1985.

McHale's finest season came in 1986-87 when he was named to the All-NBA First Team as a forward.

Early professional playing careerEdit

Heading into the 1980 NBA Draft the Celtics held the number one overall pick. But in a shrewd pre-draft trade, considered by some to be among the most lopsided in NBA history, Boston Celtics President Red Auerbach dealt the top pick and an additional first-round pick to the Golden State Warriors for Parish and the Warriors' first-round pick, the third overall. With that pick the Celtics chose McHale.

McHale's stay in Boston got off to a rocky start as he held out for a large contract, even threatening to play in Italy, before signing a three-year deal with the Celtics. Backing up Bird and Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell at forward, McHale made an immediate impact and was named to the NBA's All-Rookie First Team in his rookie season. Boston finished with the NBA's best record that year.

In the playoffs the Celtics swept the Chicago Bulls in the first round. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics faced a 3–1 deficit against the Philadelphia 76ers. But Boston won the last three games of the series, including Game 6 on Philadelphia's home court. McHale helped save the Game 6 win by blocking Andrew Toney's shot and corralling the rebound with 16 seconds left to protect the Celtics' one-point lead. In the NBA Finals, Boston defeated the Houston Rockets in six games to capture the club's fourteenth championship.

The Celtics failed to advance to the NBA Finals the next two seasons. Philadelphia exacted a measure of revenge in the 1982 Eastern Conference Final, beating Boston at its home arena, the Boston Garden, in a seventh game. In the 1983 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Celtics were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks, leading to the firing of head coach Bill Fitch.

Following the 1982-83 season McHale's contract with the Celtics expired, and the New York Knicks signed him to a contract offer sheet. Auerbach retaliated by signing three of New York's top free agent players to offer sheets. The Knicks elected to re-sign their players and give up their pursuit of McHale. McHale eventually re-signed with Boston, his $1 million per season contract making him the fourth-highest paid player in the NBA.

McHale won the first of his consecutive NBA Sixth Man Awards as Boston won a league-best 62 games in the 1983–84 season. Led by a new head coach, former Celtic K.C. Jones, Boston was also bolstered by the acquisition of point guard Dennis Johnson from the Phoenix Suns.

After surviving a tough seven-game semifinal battle with the Knicks, the Celtics avenged the previous season's playoff loss to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston would face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in a highly-anticipated matchup.

In Game 4 of the finals, with the Celtics trailing in both the game and the series, McHale delivered a hard foul to Kurt Rambis, violently flinging him down by his throat, as the Lakers' forward raced to the basket. The physical play touched off a bench-clearing scuffle. Boston came back to win the game in overtime and tie the series at two games apiece. They eventually prevailed in seven games to win the franchise's fifteenth championship.

McHale continued to come off the bench during first half of the 1984–1985 season, but moved into a starting role in February 1985 after Cedric Maxwell injured a knee. On March 3 versus the Detroit Pistons McHale had his greatest scoring night, setting the Celtics' single-game scoring record with 56 points. [1] Two nights later McHale scored 42 points against the Knicks, the only other time in his career he topped 40 points in a game. The 98 points in consecutive games is still a Celtics' record. On March 12, just nine days after McHale scored 56, Larry Bird established a new Celtics' single-game scoring mark by pouring in 60 points versus the Atlanta Hawks.

Boston captured its second straight Eastern Conference title but was upended in the NBA Finals in six games by the rival Lakers. McHale led the Celtics in scoring (26.0) and rebounding (10.7) versus the Lakers, including a 32-point, 16-rebound performance in the decisive sixth game.

Sweet SixteenEdit

The 1985–1986 edition of the Boston Celtics won the franchise's sixteenth NBA Championship and is considered one of the greatest teams in NBA history [2].

The Celtics acquired former NBA Most Valuable Player Bill Walton in a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers in September 1985, and added the 6 ft 11 in (211 cm) center to its already-formidable frontline. Boston sent Cedric Maxwell to the Clippers to complete the trade, clearing the way for McHale to move into a full time starting role. McHale averaged better than 20-points per game for the first time in his career (21.3) and finished thirteenth in the NBA Most Valuable Player voting.

He joined starters Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge as the Celtics steamrolled the NBA with a league-best 67–15 record. The team set a then-NBA record by finishing with an 82–18 win-loss record (including playoffs), breaking the record of 81 victories by the 1971–72 Lakers.

Boston also set the NBA mark for most home victories in one season, finishing 50–1 (including playoffs) in 48 games in the Boston Garden and three games in Hartford, Connecticut. The Portland Trail Blazers were the only team to beat Boston at home, winning 121-103 in Boston on December 6, 1985. (The Celtics did not lose again at home until more than a year later, when Lakers beat them 117-110 on December 12, 1986.)

Boston won 41 of its first 50 games, including two victories over the Lakers. In a rout of the Clippers on December 30, 1985, McHale set his single-game high in rebounds with 18 (a mark he tied versus the Pistons in 1989).

An extremely durable player through the first five seasons of his career, McHale missed 14 games in early 1986 due to an injured Achilles tendon in his left ankle, but he was healthy when the playoffs began. Boston rolled through the Eastern Conference, winning 11 of 12 games versus Chicago, Atlanta and Milwaukee.

For the second time in five years the Celtics faced Houston in the NBA Finals, and the result was the same as in 1981, as Boston won the title in six games. McHale averaged 25.8 points per game in the finals to lead all scorers.

The "torture chamber"Edit

"When I was healthy, I always felt I could score," McHale once told reporters. "When it went into what I called 'The torture chamber,' I knew it was in." [3]

By his seventh pro season, McHale had rehearsed and refined his low-post moves and had become one of the NBA's most dominant offensive forces, out-leaping, out-spinning and out-maneuvering defender after defender in his "torture chamber". McHale was never better than the 1986–1987 season, setting career highs in scoring (26.1) and rebounding (9.9). He also became the first player in NBA history to shoot sixty percent or better from the field (60.4%) and eighty percent or better from the free throw line (83.6%) in the same season. McHale was named to the All-NBA First Team, was named the NBA's best defensive player by the league's coaches, and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting behind Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Bird.

In nine games from February 23, 1987, through March 13, McHale played arguably the best stretch of basketball in his career. He averaged 30.7 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting a staggering 71.7 percent from the floor. During this stretch McHale scored his season-high in points, 38 versus the Pistons on March 1.

In a win at Chicago on March 27, McHale broke the navicular bone in his right foot. He ignored doctors' advice that the injury could be career-threatening and continued to play. In the playoffs a hobbled McHale averaged 39 minutes per game and connected on 58 percent of his shots as Boston once again won the Eastern Conference title. Boston swept the Bulls in the first round for the second straight year and survived two seven-game series with the Bucks and Pistons. A tired and hurting Celtics team could not defend its championship, losing to the Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.

Off-season surgery on his injured right foot and ankle forced McHale to sit out the first month of the 1987–1988 season. He scored 22 points in 22 minutes of play in his return to the Celtics on December 1, 1987, versus Atlanta.

Teammate Danny Ainge once called McHale "The Black Hole", joking that when the basketball was passed inside to McHale it disappeared because he rarely passed it back. But in a win over the Dallas Mavericks on April 3, 1988, McHale played the role of passer, distributing 10 assists—the only time in his career he reached double figures in a game.

The Celtics won 57 games and made their fifth straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. McHale shot 60 percent from the field and averaged a career playoff-high 25.4 points per game as Boston defeated the Knicks in four games and the Hawks in a thrilling seven-game semi-final series. The Detroit Pistons were too strong for the Celtics this time around and defeated Boston in six games in the conference final. Head coach K. C. Jones retired at the end of the season, and the Celtics of the Bird-McHale-Parish era would never again advance past the conference semi-finals.

Later professional playing careerEdit

Injuries limited Larry Bird to just six games in 1988–89 and the Celtics slipped to 42-40. New head coach Jimmy Rodgers coaxed the team into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's eighth and final seed behind the play of McHale and Parish and second-year guard Reggie Lewis.

The Celtics faced the Pistons in the playoffs for the third straight year. Detroit bottled up McHale this time around, holding him to 19 points per game and less than 50 percent shooting from the field. The Pistons easily swept the Celtics en route to their first NBA Championship.

The 1989–90 season marked the last time McHale was healthy enough to play in all 82 regular season games for the Celtics, but the season was one of discontent for Boston. Second-year point guard Brian Shaw left the team to play in Europe after a salary dispute, and Larry Bird—back from his injuries—was criticized by teammates, including McHale, for taking too many shots and trying to dominate games on his own.

Rodgers moved McHale back into his old "sixth man" role for the majority of the regular season; McHale's scoring dipped into the teens coming off the bench. With 23 games to play and Boston just nine games above .500, Rodgers decided to put McHale back into the starting lineup. McHale averaged 24.2 points and 9 rebounds down the stretch as the Celtics went 18-5 and finished just a game behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.

McHale became the first player in twenty years to finish in the NBA's top ten in field goal percentage (seventh) and free throw percentage (fifth) in the same season.

Boston took the first two games of its first-round playoff series with the Knicks, including a record-setting 157–128 blowout in Game 2. In a shocking reversal the Knicks fought back and won the last three games of the series, bouncing the stunned Celtics from the playoffs. Head coach Jimmy Rodgers was fired following the playoff disappointment.

McHale contemplated retirement in the off-season after having another surgery performed on his balky right ankle, but he came back for the 1990–91 season. Boston paired young backcourt players Lewis, Dee Brown, Kevin Gamble and Brian Shaw—back from his year in Europe—with Bird, McHale and Parish and hired Chris Ford, a longtime assistant coach and member of the Celtics' 1981 championship team, to be its head coach.

The season got off to a promising start as Boston sprinted to a 29–5 record, but the Celtics were soon slowed by injuries to McHale (ankle) and Bird (back). McHale missed 14 regular season games and Bird 22, as the Celtics limped to a 27–21 record over the last three months of the season. Boston defeated the Indiana Pacers in five games in a hotly-contested first round playoff matchup, but for the third time in four years the Celtics were eliminated by Detroit, this time in a six-game semi-final series.

McHale played in a career-low 56 games and Bird played in just 45, as each suffered through an injury-plagued 1991–92 season. Boston struggled for most of the regular season but got hot as the playoffs approached, winning 15 of its last 16 games and finishing with 51 wins, the third-most in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics swept the Pacers in the first round, but were defeated in seven games in the conference semi-finals by the younger, quicker Cleveland Cavaliers. Bird retired from the NBA three months later.

The 1992–1993 season was McHale's last in the NBA. McHale played in 71 games, but he was severely hampered by leg and back injuries. He averaged just 10.7 points per game and shot less than 50 percent from the floor (45.9%) for the only time in his career.

In the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets the Celtics were stunned by the loss of Lewis, their leading scorer. He collapsed on the court during Game 1 and was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal heart condition. McHale performed brilliantly in the series. He averaged 19.6 points per game and shot 58 percent from the field—including 30 points and 10 rebounds in Game 2—but Boston fell to the Hornets in four games.

McHale announced his retirement while talking with reporters at the scorer's table after the Game 4 loss in Charlotte.

LegacyEdit

In 971 regular season games McHale averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds and in 169 post-season games averaged 18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds.

At the end of the 2007-2008 season McHale ranked tenth in NBA history in career field goal percentage (55.4%), and he is among the Celtics' career leaders in several categories, including games played, points scored and rebounding.

McHale's number 32 jersey was retired by the Celtics on January 30, 1994, during a halftime ceremony at the Boston Garden [4].

He was chosen one of the NBA's fifty greatest players and was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996.

McHale was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Post-playing careerEdit

Upon his retirement as an NBA player, McHale joined the Minnesota Timberwolves as a television analyst and special assistant. In the summer of 1994, new Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor promoted him to Assistant General Manager. He continued to broadcast Timberwolves games and work as an executive until 1995, when he succeeded Jack McCloskey as Vice President of Basketball Operations, a position he still holds.

One of McHale's first moves was to hire former University of Minnesota teammate Flip Saunders as head coach of the Timberwolves.

The next season McHale made the decision to draft high school phenom forward Kevin Garnett with the fifth overall pick of the 1995 NBA Draft. Though Garnett developed into one of the NBA's best players, the Timberwolves advanced past the first round of the Western Conference playoffs only once in Garnett's twelve seasons with the team.

It was also during McHale's reign that the Timberwolves were punished by the NBA for making a secret deal with free agent forward Joe Smith to circumvent the league's salary cap rules. Before the 1998-1999 season, Smith agreed in secret to sign three one-year contracts with the Timberwolves for less than his market value. In return, Smith received a promise that the Timberwolves would give him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract before the 2001-2002 season.

In 2000, after word of the secret agreement got out, NBA commissioner David Stern voided Smith's final one-year contract with the Timberwolves, making Smith a free agent. Stern also took away three of the Timberwolves' next five first-round draft picks and fined the team $3.5 million. Smith signed with Detroit for one season, but came back to Minnesota before the 2001-2002 season as a free agent.

On February 12, 2005, the Timberwolves fired Saunders and McHale took on head coaching duties for the remainder of the 2004-2005 season. He compiled a 19-12 record but had no interest in continuing as head coach. Dwane Casey was hired as the new head coach in the off-season of 2005.

With Minnesota sitting at .500 midway through the 2006-2007 season, McHale fired Casey on January 23, 2007. Timberwolves' assistant coach Randy Wittman was tabbed to take over for Casey.

Despite missing the playoffs, on April 19, 2007, the Timberwolves announced that McHale would return for the 2007-2008 season, as would Wittman. [5]

Prior to the 2007 NBA Draft McHale reportedly tried to work out a trade with Celtics General Manager and former teammate Danny Ainge that would have sent Kevin Garnett to Boston for a draft pick and players. Garnett's agent told the Timberwolves and the Celtics that his client had no interest in playing for Boston, and the potential trade was scuttled.[6]

In late July 2007, Minnesota and Boston once again tried to consummate a deal for Garnett. Garnett eased his stance on being traded to Boston; on July 31 he was sent to the Celtics for five players and two first-round draft picks.[7][8] Garnett finished third in the MVP balloting and was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in leading Boston to the NBA Championship over the Lakers.

McHale now resides in North Oaks, MN with his wife and children.

TriviaEdit

  • McHale is one of six members of the 1985-1986 Celtics' championship team to serve as an NBA head coach (Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson, Sam Vincent and Rick Carlisle are the others).
  • McHale twice made guest appearances on the television sitcom Cheers (1990 and 1991).
  • McHale's fans in Boston dubbed themselves "McHale's Army", a takeoff on the title of the 1960s sitcom McHale's Navy.
  • On an episode of The Arsenio Hall Show, Charles Barkley remarked that, in his prime, McHale was the toughest defensive assignment in the league for a power forward.

NotesEdit

External linksEdit


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