There's a practical reason the T-Wolves must make more of their own reads too: They can't hear McHale the way they heard Saunders, who prowled the sideline shouting play calls. McHale gets up from time to time, but--partly due to his temperament, partly to his ankles--he's basically a sitter. That doesn't mean he's not involved. "[The other team will] make a substitution, and Kevin will say, 'O.K, what plays can we run for Wally [Szczerbiak]?'" says Sichting. "Kevin talks a lot during the game. Of course, he talks a lot all the time."
For many, the best thing about the McHale regime is to see him down on the court before games--sport coat off, loafers on--instructing his team in the fine points. The sessions with his players have a kind of apple-polishing feel to them because McHale controls both their minutes and their long-term status with the franchise. Before Minnesota played the Clippers, he spent 10 minutes instructing Ndudi Ebi, a little-used forward who's on the injured list, about how to double-down and dig for the ball, then spring to the outside ("close out") to guard a shooter. Then he fed forward Mark Madsen and Ebi the ball as they went at each other hard in a one-on-one session.
By all accounts, including his own, McHale likes coaching more than he thought he would. "The competitive fire does come back as a coach more than it did watching from the stands," he says. "You're in the middle of it a little bit more. Your mind's active all the time." The players sense that he's into it. "It's energized him," says swingman Fred Hoiberg. Reluctantly, McHale even concedes, "I do have some new suits arriving soon," which is fortunate, since in the pocket of the old-school gray number he picked for his debut was a ticket stub for a Timberwolves-Warriors game in Oakland ... from 1999. "It must be a while since I had that one cleaned," McHale told Steve Aschburner of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Given his enthusiasm, is it possible that if Minnesota finishes strong and grabs a playoff spot (at week's end they were 2 1/2 games behind Hamblen's Lakers for the final one), McHale will take the interim tag off himself? "The chances of me doing this long term are slim to none," says McHale, who refuses to rule it out categorically. "I just don't think I'm cut out to be a career coach. The one thing I can guarantee right now is that I'll coach tomorrow night." Most interims would kill for that kind of security. ?