Rockets star James Harden calls former coach ‘a clown.’
Guard calls former coach ‘a clown’ for belittling his leadership abilities
James Harden, describing himself as “upset” at former Rockets coach Kevin McHale’s comment that the guard is not a leader, hit back on Saturday and hit hard.
“He’s a clown. Honestly,” Harden said. “I did anything and everything he asked me to do. I tried to lead this team since I stepped foot here in Houston. To go out there and downplay my name, honestly, he’s never taught me anything to be a leader. But I’ve done a great job. The organization, my coaches. You can ask any of those guys how I worked extremely hard every single day to, obviously, be a better basketball player, but to be a leader as well, defensively as well.”
McHale was fired 11 games into the 2015-16 season, the start of his fifth year as the coach. McHale said in an NBA-TV discussion released Friday that it is not Harden’s “personality” to be a leader.
“James is not a leader,” McHale said. “He tried being a leader last year, tried doing that stuff. I think Chris Paul is going to help him just kind of get back into just being able to hoop and play and stuff like that.
“On every team you have to have a voice. On every team you have to have somebody that when they say something people listen. … Like if James tells you ‘Chuck (Charles Barkley), you got to play better D,’ are you listening to him? You got to be kidding me. I lived through it believe me … every time he mentioned defense everybody would put their head down like ‘you got to be kidding me.’ ”
McHale went 193-130, the best winning percentage of any coach in Rockets history, other than Mike D’Antoni, who led the Rockets to a 55-27 record last season. Harden was the runner-up for MVP in the 2014-15 season under McHale and again last season while playing for D’Antoni. D’Antoni disagrees
Harden rarely responds to comments made about him, but he was clearly offended the criticism came from McHale.
“To downplay my name like that, it shows his character,” Harden said. “I usually don’t go back and forth on social media with anybody or with interviews. But it’s time to stand up for myself. You just don’t go and do that. It shows what type of person he is.”
Asked if McHale could be reacting to the abrupt end of his tenure as Rockets coach, Harden said, “For sure, and I had nothing to do with it. I’m just here to do my job, compete at the highest level that I can.”
D’Antoni said he can only judge from his time around Harden, but he praised Harden’s leadership since he became the Rockets coach in June 2016.
“All I can do is talk from my experience, and he’s been unbelievably great,” D’Antoni said. “Obviously, I got (NBA) Coach of the Year last year because of him and the other 10 guys on the team. He’s been great with everything I asked. I asked a lot of him last year. I asked him to be the point guard, I asked him to talk on D, I asked a lot of things and he responded great. We had great chemistry.
“He’s the first one to get them all together in the summertime or take them out during the year to keep the team together. So, I didn’t see it. He’s been great for me.” ‘Shows your character’
Harden said he has worked on his leadership abilities, talking often with Rockets trainer Jason Biles and seeking to learn from Paul, long considered one of the NBA’s most effective leaders. But he said McHale did not indicate any issues with his leadership of the Rockets when they were together.
“When you’re here and you’re face-to-face and you’re telling me one thing, how great of a player you (are), how lucky he is to be a part of this process, then go back a few years later and basically say the opposite, it shows your character,” Harden said. “It shows who you really are. I’m not that type of person. I don’t operate that way. I don’t say something (about) somebody behind their back or tell them one thing and go ahead and say the other thing.”
Former Rockets coach Kevin McHale left, and guard James Harden worked in tandem while together, but recent comments by McHale have created a rift with the bearded superstar.