McHale out as Timberwolves coach
During 15 years in charge of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin McHale forged two distinct reputations.
There was McHale the gifted teacher, beloved by players and staff for his relentlessly positive demeanor and an unending eagerness to share his wealth of basketball knowledge. Then, there was McHale the mistake-prone executive, vilified by fans for a series of blunders and the failure to make his team into a consistent championship contender.
New president of basketball operations David Kahn dumped McHale as coach Wednesday, praising him as a “great man” who deserves respect. But offered no specific reasons during a news conference for his decision, saying instead that “this is going to be a transition period. And with the changes that have occurred and with the changes that are still going to come, it would have been difficult to put him in the middle of that again.”
McHale, a Northern Minnesota native and Hall of Fame player who won three NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in the 1980s, met several times with Kahn before the decision was reached.
“I was willing to come back, but they never offered me a contract,” McHale told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “They told me last night they were going in a different direction. I said, ‘I think you’re making a mistake, but that’s up to you guys.’ ”
Fans flood Lakers party
The streets of downtown were transformed into a sea of purple and gold on yesterday, as tens of thousands of joyous Los Angeles Lakers fans joined their team in a raucous, but mostly peaceful celebration of its 15th NBA championship.
Taking time out from work or unemployment, 95,000 people filled the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to give a hero’s welcome to players and coaches, who were showered with purple and gold confetti, as the Randy Newman song “I Love L.A.” blared from loudspeakers.
Tens of thousands more fans lined a 2 1/2-mile parade route, standing 20 or more deep beneath bright sunshine to cheer as double-decker buses carried the team to the stadium.
“Thank you for all the support, baby. We love you. Let’s go, Lakers,” veteran guard Derek Fisher, one of the heroes of the NBA Finals, shouted to fans along the route.
Reserve Sasha Vujacic happily snapped photos, and star forward Lamar Odom tweeted, “Wow! This is crazy!”
At the stadium, the Laker Girls danced on a hardwood floor that was moved to the Coliseum from Staples Center, the team’s home court.
“We are humbled by your devotion and appreciation to us,” said coach Phil Jackson said.
Parades and rallies celebrating Lakers championships have been a tradition in Los Angeles since the teams led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar began winning titles with regularity in the 1980s. But none were as big, loud or celebratory as this one, which came after down years endured since the team’s last championship in 2002.
“This is more special because we went through so many dark years,” said Bryant, who played on Jackson-coached, title-winning teams in 2000, ’01 and ’02.
With Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and other stars past and present looking on, Bryant led the crowd at the stadium in a chant that he said the players shouted before, during and after every game this year as they fought for the title.
“I want everybody to say ‘ring’ on three,” Bryant said. “One, two, three … ” The crowd responded.
Then, he and his high-fiving, body-bumping teammates embraced in a brief circle dance.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” said Letitcia Gutierrez, who watched the parade while squeezed against a chain-link fence separating fans from the buses carrying the players. “We got passion and motivation. We’re rowdy.”