Kevin McHale – Best GM in Sports?

Well, it turns out the Timberwolves will get a first place finish in something after all…

Forbes.com recently ranked the general managers in the four major sports to determine who’s the best. And to the shock of many Timberwolves fans who have been calling for his head the past three years, our very own Kevin McHale was ranked #1.    

[ad2] No, this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.  No, there weren’t any ballot stuffers or hanging chads that messed up the count.  Forbes.com legitmately ranked Kevin McHale over 97 other GM’s. 

Look, I’m not a card-carrying McHale hater, but I have to say that the results of Forbes.com’s study are completely laughable.  I’m about as big of a Wolves homer as there is, and I can’t possibly fathom a scenario in which Kevin McHale is considered the best GM in all of sports.  Currently, the Minnesota Timberwolves are a complete mess and have almost no way to better their situation without trading away their franchise player – a situation that’s almost entirely McHale’s making.  As far as history goes, under McHales guidance, the Wolves have gotten past the first round of the playoffs all of one time.  And I won’t even begin to go into the whole Joe Smith fiasco…

Look, I’m not saying Kevin McHale is the worst GM in pro sports either.  That would be equally as incorrect.  Truthfully, he belongs somewhere in the middle of the pack. So where did Forbes.com go wrong in their evaluation of general managers?  Bascially, the criteria they used to establish who’s best is completely bogus. 

The formula is largely based on how the current GM outperformed his predecessor.  In Kevin McHale’s case, the bar was set extremely low.  When you consider how awful the pre-McHale Timberwolves were, it’s no surprise to find out the Kevin McHale has managed greatly increase the proportion of Timberwolves wins.  Before McHale took over, the Wolves were averaging around 20 wins a season.  When you compare last season’s 33-49 stinkbomb, McHale is still credited a 50% increase in wins.  And ‘03-’04’s 58-24 run is almost three times better. 

There’s no question that things are much better under Kevin McHale than they were in the Wolves’ early days.  But that’s like earning the title of “tallest midget at the circus”.  There’s no doubt the number do point in McHales favor.  But the real question is, did the Wolves improve that much because of Kevin McHale or in spite of him? 

When you take a look at the Timberwolves making the leap from a perrenial 20-win team to annual playoff contenders, it’s no surprise that the change occurs a precisely the same time as Kevin Garnett joining the team.  If there was any move for Kevin McHale to hang his hat on, it was picking KG straight out of highschool with the 5th pick in 1995.  That lone move is unquestionably the biggest factor in the Wolves increase in wins.  But should one good draft pick, especially when followed by a slew of bad, or worse, lost ones, qualify somebody for the title of “Best GM in Sports”?

After the drafting of Garnett, Kevin McHale’s track record becomes less and less impressive.  Stephon Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Chauncey Billups, Joe Smith, Will Avery, Bobby Jackson, Rasho Nesterovic, Ndudi Ebi, Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell, Troy Hudson, Michael Olowokandi, Marko Jaric, Marcus Banks, and most recently, Mike James are names that make most Wolves fans cringe.  Kevin McHale was responsible for acquiring each one of them, often at the expense of a nasty contract or draft picks.  

And players that make Wolves fans smile?  Well, after Garnett, names like Wally Szczerbiak, Randy Foye, and Craig Smith do little to ease the frustration hurled upon them by the preceding group. 

Clearly the Forbes.com ranking system is flawed.  So who cares, right?  Well, Wolves fans should if the recent rankings give Glen Taylor an ounce of an excuse for keeping McHale in office.  There’s been a rumbling throughout the Timberwolves nation that the team’s front office has become too much of a “boy’s club” where positions are given out because of friendships and little or no accountability for one’s job performance is taken.  If the Wolves finish outside of the playoff picture for yet a third year, Glen Taylor may be able to use this Forbes.com study to justify sticking with McHale for yet another year.  This would be a very unwelcome scenario for most Wolves fans who believe a major shake-up is in order. 

So is Kevin McHale the best General Manager in Sports?  I guess it’s just a matter of opinion.  But hats off to Forbes.com for at least sparking the debate with their very scientific formula.  I’m really looking forward to next week’s article “Ice: It’s Actually Hot!”

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Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson founded the Bloguin Network and TWolves Blog. He is one of the original Timberwolves fans, hailing back to 1989.

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