BOSTON -- Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee were closely tied to Hall of Famer Kevin McHale before either played for his former team, the Boston Celtics.
When McHale returned to the TD Garden on Friday as head coach of the Houston Rockets, his two former players were eager to reflect on their time under his watch.
McHale has been part of Garnett's basketball career since the day he entered the league in 1995. He held the role of Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves when they drafted Garnett with the fifth overall pick 18 years ago. McHale served as head coach during the 2004-05 season, and was in the front office when the Timberwolves traded Garnett to the Celtics in 2007.
"Kevin hasn't been my coach for a long time but he's taught me a lot," said Garnett. "So I see the similarities and I see some things I remember that are refreshing to my mind sometimes when I'm watching his teams play. The disadvantage is that he taught me everything so he's probably telling them everything that I know. But in competition it's always good to see people you've worked with before still in the game, still a part of the game."
Lee spent much less time with McHale but the impact was still as strong. McHale became the head coach of the Houston Rockets for the 2011-12 season when Lee was a guard for the team. In one season, they developed a close bond that meant just as much on the court as it did off to Lee.
"He's a great coach," said Lee. "He's a great communicator. He'll come out there if somebody's not getting it right and talk to them until they get it right without getting on them. He's positive. As a person, he's just a great person."
Playing under both McHale and Doc Rivers, two former NBA players, Lee sees similarities in their approach with their players and a few differences in their systems.
"They're similar in the case that both of them are players' coaches," said Lee. "They both played the game and they've been apart of it they understand what players need to get going and what not. But as far as system-wise, Doc's more of an instructor with his system as far as running sets, executing. As far as McHale, he has that trust in players where he lets you go out there and just play."
Garnett and Lee got the win over their former coach on Friday, as the Celtics beat the Rockets, 103-91. Garnett finished the night with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Lee had one of his strongest showing of the season with 14 points.
Regardless of the outcome, they welcome him to the Garden any time.
"I think Kevin's one of the best teachers I've been around," said Garnett. "He has a lot to give to the game, always has. He loves basketball, so any time you have someone who loves basketball that much, it's good that they're still around."