Toronto Raptors make right decision to extend and promote Alex McKechnie

Toronto Raptors - Alex McKechnie (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Alex McKechnie (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors promoted Alex McKechnie while signing him to a contract extension. It was a smart, easy decision for Masai Ujiri and company.

Everywhere in sports, teams are looking to gain the smallest edge. Players push themselves to the limits, coaches grind tape for hours, and general managers work long nights scouting kids from Western Iowa State Technical Institute just to get a leg up on opponents. Well now, the Toronto Raptors just gained (or kept) another advantage.

The Raptors announced on Tuesday that they have promoted Alex McKechnie to vice-president of player health and performance while signing him to a contract extension. The native of Glasgow, Scotland is a critical piece of one of the most well-run organizations in the NBA.

Following last summer’s blockbuster trade that delivered a now-departed Kawhi Leonard to Toronto,  one person went so far to call Alex McKechnie, the team’s director of sports science, the most important person in the Toronto Raptors organization:

"“You’re the most important person in the organization now,”– Anonymous, in reference to Toronto’s director of sports science, Alex McKechnie"

Leonard was broken – like Humpty Dumpty, he needed to be put back together again. That was the job that awaited McKechnie, and that’s why, to some, rather one, he was tabbed “the most important person in the organization”.

McKechnie did not disappoint. He introduced the NBA to the term, “load management”, and it was one of the reasons why that snazzy banner now hangs in the rafters of Scotiabank Arena. It’s easy to disregard and forget about all the efforts made by non-player personnel. Coaches, video staff, the laundry people, towel guys and gals…they all play a role in creating (and sustaining) a winning culture.

Kawhi was Toronto’s MVP a season ago. But he has McKechnie to thank for getting him back into game shape, and that’s why extending and promoting the white-haired guru had to be an easy decision for Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster.

A bit of history now — McKechnie, 67, spent 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before joining the Raptors organization in 2011.

In 1997, while with the Lakers, McKechnie played a pivotal role in helping Shaquille O’Neal rehab an abdominal injury. Nothing the team’s medical staff did was working, but when McKechnie got his hands on Shaq Daddy, everything changed.

"“He brought me back. I was dead, and he brought me back.”– Shaquille O’Neal, talking about Alex McKechnie (David Ebner – The Globe and Mail)"

Younger fans will remember, vividly, the lengths McKechnie went to to help former Raptor DeMar DeRozan overcome a sprained thumb, wrapping a red shoelace around it during timeouts to help reduce swelling. Players often cite McKechnie’s out-of-the-box thinking as one of his many endearing qualities. In such a competitive industry, teams have to make every possible effort to prevent talent from leaving. Having someone with McKechnie’s resumé on the staff and accessible to players will go a long way in convincing players that Toronto is where they want to be.

A new contract, a new position and, of course, a new ring, Alex McKechnie clearly has enjoyed his time with the Raptors. The 67-year-old guru could find work just about anywhere. He has ties in LA and could’ve easily followed Leonard to the West Coast if he wanted.

But he didn’t, and because of that, the Toronto Raptors are better off. Again, teams are made up of more than just players.

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McKechnie remains in the north and will continue serving the team that hired him in 2011. Behind the three-headed monster of Nurse/Ujiri/Webster is an old sage that works tirelessly, each and every day, to ensure players feel healthy and can perform at their respective peaks.

And in my humble opinion, there does not exist a better pair of hands, or a better mind, in the business than those of Alex McKechnie.