- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

From combined dispatches

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 Kahn offered no specific reasons during a press 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.’ ”

Players lamented the loss of the teacher.

“I was more shocked, disappointed, hurt,” said forward Al Jefferson, one of many players who urged Kahn to bring McHale back next season. “But at the same time I understand that this is a business.”

Though he helped turn one of the most hapless franchises in professional sports into a playoff team by boldly drafting Kevin Garnett out of high school with the fifth pick in 1995, McHale received massive criticism from fans the past few years for a series of draft-day failures and other roster moves that never worked out.

After a stirring run to the Western Conference finals in 2004, the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since.

Kahn said the team won’t start the coaching search until after the June 25 draft.

McHale had been the primary decision-maker on personnel matters since he was named vice president of basketball operations in 1995, forging a tight bond with owner Glen Taylor in the process.

“I will be forever grateful for the work Kevin did in returning to his home state and assembling a team that made eight straight playoff appearances,” Taylor said in a statement issued by the team. “Kevin brought an enormous amount of basketball talent and passion to our organization, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

GAMBLING PROBE: Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy arrived at a Tampa, Fla., halfway house Wednesday from a federal prison camp in Pensacola to serve the rest of his sentence in a gambling scandal, his spokesman said.

A New York judge sentenced Donaghy last year to 15 months after the referee said he took thousands of dollars from a professional gambler in exchange for inside tips on NBA games - including games he worked. Donaghy said he was a gambling addict.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce in the tips-for-payoffs scheme. Donaghy is scheduled for release in October.

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