Houston Rockets

Ex-Rockets coach Kevin McHale says James Harden is not a leader

Kevin McHale is a bit removed from coaching James Harden, but he still does not think Harden is a leader.

Before being fired 11 games into the 2015-16 season, Kevin McHale coaches James Harden with the Houston Rockets for three-plus seasons. The bad dynamic between Harden and Dwight Howard surely put strain on everyone else, and it probably ultimately cost McHale his job.

McHale stepped back into an analyst role for TNT and NBA TV after being out of coaching. That role, in any sport, creates a situation where players someone once coached have to be analyzed and critiqued when necessary.

McHale was put in that situation, previewing the Rockets’ 2017-18 season for NBA TV’s Open Court. When discussing the new backcourt dynamic between Harden and Chris Paul, McHale was not too complementary of Harden.

I think it (adding Paul) makes them a much better team because you had James Harden with the ball, he’s fantastic with the ball – the guys got phenomenal vision, James can see all the passes and do everything but James is not a leader,

He tried being a leader last year and doing that stuff, I think Chris Paul is going to help him do that stuff and get back to just hoop and play. On every team you need to have a voice, you have to have somebody that when he says something, everybody listens. Look, if James tells you ‘Chuck (Barkley), you’ve got to play better (defense).’ Are you going to listen to him? You’re kidding me. I lived through it, everybody in the locker room shook their head.

McHale clearly doesn’t look back on coaching Harden very fondly, but he seems to be heaping some praise on Paul too. Sometimes it’s hard to view a coach-turned analyst as credible when they have to analyze their former players, so McHale deserves some kudos for willingly citing a flaw he still sees in Harden.

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