MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Watching Kevin McHale work the sidelines for the Minnesota Timberwolves, it is difficult to gauge just how much coaching he has left in him.

There were days this season when he was so frustrated by a lack of effort or a slow start that it looked like he wanted to walk away in the middle of a game.

Then there were nights when everything seemed to come together, when he saw the players applying what he harped on in practice and showing abilities that weren’t there earlier this season. And he would walk out of the arena invigorated, with an extra hop in that famous limp of his.

So it should come as no surprise that he wasn’t willing to shed any light on his future with the organization on Wednesday morning before the season finale against Sacramento.

“We’ll see,” McHale said.

The Minnesota native has been with the Timberwolves since 1994. He took over as vice president of basketball operations in 1995 and held that post for most of the next 14 years, including his first stint as coach in 2005. But owner Glen Taylor stripped him of those duties when he fired Randy Wittman and installed McHale as coach in December.

Taylor wants McHale to return as coach next season, and the players seem to agree.

Forward Al Jefferson, who has been out since the All-Star break with a knee injury, told The Associated Press that he wants McHale to return as coach, “but I want him to be happy, to be comfortable with his decision.

“If he coaches, I told him we’re going to fight to the end. I think he’s a good coach. He was a player so he knows how to relate to us, he knows how to talk to us and he knows how to coach us. But also, if he wants to go back in the front office, that works for me because, even if he’s in the front office, he’s down there (in practice) as if he was a coach.”

But the owner has made it clear that he is looking for another basketball person to fill the executive chair McHale sat in for so long. So for McHale, it’s coach or go home.

“If there’s some kind of way that he leaves the Timberwolves,” Jefferson said, “that’s when I’ll be very, very upset.”

The decision could be a difficult one for the former Boston Celtics great.

On the one hand, McHale loves working with players in practice and seeing that hard work manifest itself in games. He enjoys being around the game and has developed a close bond with this young, good-natured team that has been eager to learn from him.

“Whoever coaches them will be able to come in here and have a good group of guys,” McHale said. “They will play hard for you. They’re good kids. They’re going to go out there and lay it on the line. I like them. We all get along pretty well and stuff.

“But like I said, we’ll see.”

On the other hand, McHale loathes the day-to-day grind of coaching – the late-night travel and the media obligations that come with it.

“It’s like being a player but not getting to play, which is the only fun part about being a player,” he said at Dallas on Monday. “It’s all that without the fun.”

Genial and social by nature, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom this season for McHale, who has had to coach a young team without Jefferson and second-leading scorer Randy Foye (hip), who missed the last nine games of the season.

He jokes around with the players, pats them on the back and encourages them on most nights, and the players have responded.

“I expect him back. I get the vibe, you know?” Foye said. “We talk a lot and I just get the vibe. Knowing him as being a championship-caliber player, I don’t think he wants to go out with a losing record. I think he wants to make some type of effort and some type of push for the playoffs before he decides to step down.”

AP-ES-04-15-09 1810EDT

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