As a guest analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA studio show before Tuesday night’s Rockets/Warriors game, former head coach Kevin McHale spoke publicly about his firing from the Rockets for one of the first times since his November dismissal.
“I kind of wish I was sitting in Oracle (Arena) getting ready to play Golden State … I think,” McHale said jokingly after being introduced by the studio crew.
When asked if he was surprised by Houston’s decision to fire him after a 4-7 start, McHale said:
“Yes. I went in and had said we had a rough camp. A lot of guys were injured. Dwight [Howard] couldn’t do back-to-back practices and was not going to be able to do back-to-back games until December. James [Harden] had sprained his ankle over the summer and came in overweight.
“We weren’t playing very well. I had told our guys at the end of training camp… that we were a month to six weeks away from having our team gelling and playing well. So we got off to a tough start.”
On the actual November 18 firing:
“I came in and sat down. They said, ‘You’re fired.’
“I was like, wow. It really, really surprised me. I did not think that was the case. I never had a team that I have not been able to get motivated and get going. We weren’t playing well. I’ll be the first to admit that. But it was so short. Eleven games.
“I thought maybe the [Western Conference Finals berth] would have bought me more time. I guess not. We won 56 games the year before and got to the Western Conference Finals with that same exact team, for the most part.”
McHale’s full comments can be viewed below. He filled in for Kenny Smith as part of TNT’s studio team, joining host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.
McHale was later asked about the recent wave of coach firings, including Brooklyn’s Lionel Hollins, Cleveland’s David Blatt, Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek and New York’s Derek Fisher.
“If your name isn’t Gregg Popovich — rent, don’t buy,” McHale said. “There are so many players with so much pull inside the league. It’s just rough right now in the coaching profession.”
UPDATE: After the Rockets-Warriors game, McHale said he wishes he was still coaching in Houston.