McHale to return as Timberwolves basketball VP
MINNEAPOLIS -- They wore bags on their heads and carried signs that read, "Fire McHale!"
The Minnesota Timberwolves fans who want Kevin McHale out are becoming more and more vocal, and some turned out to express their displeasure at the season finale.
But McHale isn't going anywhere.
McHale said Thursday he will return as vice president of basketball operations next season and plans on bringing star Kevin Garnett and coach Randy Wittman back with him.
"I don't want to walk away with the team in this state," said McHale, who said this year's team resembled the "dysfunctional" squad he inherited when he was named vice president in 1995.
In a season-ending news conference, McHale addressed a long, frustrating year in which his Wolves finished 32-50 and missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
"It was a bad season, there's no other way you can say it," McHale said. "It was a bad year and I did a bad job. That's the way it is."
Many fans have become frustrated with McHale for not surrounding Garnett with a better, more competitive team. One such fan was kicked out of Wednesday night's season finale against Memphis for holding a sign that read, "Fire McHale!"
"That happens," McHale said. "There is a frustration level with the fans and I think everybody understands that. It's our job to try to see what we can do to correct that without banking on those ping pong balls and just getting lucky."
Despite the criticism, McHale said he will be back for another season and promised to make changes to a roster that struggled with on-court chemistry and consistency.
Problems started in January when McHale fired coach Dwane Casey with the Timberwolves at 20-20. Wittman took over, but the Wolves went 12-30 with the taskmaster at the helm.
McHale praised Wittman's leadership and discipline, saying he hoped Wittman would benefit from having a full offseason and training camp to instill his scheme.
"We have to try to put together a product on the floor that's a lot more competitive and a lot more pleasing to watch," McHale said. "I mean there were times out there where I thought we were very hard to watch. You'd be watching the game and I'd be like, 'Ugh. That's bad.'"
Regarding Garnett, McHale said "we're not planning on trading Kevin." Garnett has an opt-out clause in his contract after next season, causing many to speculate that the Wolves could move him to avoid losing him without compensation after next season.
Garnett missed the last five games of the season with a sore right quadriceps and was at home in California when the Wolves were blown out by Memphis.
It was the team's seventh straight loss to end the season, a string that helped them hold onto their 2007 lottery pick. Minnesota finished tied with Portland for the sixth worst record in the league, guaranteeing a spot in the top 10 of the June's draft lottery.
Had the Wolves not finished with a top 10 pick, they would have had to give their selection to the Clippers as part of the Marko Jaric-Sam Cassell trade two years ago.
Wittman says there will have to be drastic changes for the Timberwolves to get back to respectability.
"We've got a lot of soul-searching from an individual standpoint," Wittman said. "We should be disappointed. I'm disappointed. I think everybody in that locker room should feel disappointed."
The biggest obstacle in the way of improvement for the Timberwolves are the contracts that McHale has doled out. The team has 12 guaranteed contracts next season, including big deals with Mark Blount, Troy Hudson and Mike James.
That limits McHale's options in the offseason, for the most part, to the draft and trades. However he does it, McHale has to make changes to improve team chemistry and eliminate some of the selfishness that plagued the team this season.
"We have to have guys who are willing to go out there and do some more sacrificing for each other," McHale said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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