He doesn’t necessarily get the most glory, but Alex McKechnie has been instrumental to the Raptors’ success since joining the team for the 2011-12 season. To reward that run of success, the Raptors have officially announced they’ve promoted McKechnie, who has long held the title of Director of Sports Science (and assistant coach), to Vice President, Player Health and Performance. They’ve also confirmed the extension of his contract.
You’d be forgiven for perhaps not recognizing McKechnie by sight. Like many members of the Toronto professional sports scene, he works mostly away from the spotlight. However, it was telling on last Tuesday’s ring night when the various members of the Raptors’ behind-the-bench staffers were mentioned — there was McKechnie, the 67-year-old Scotsman, receiving a rousing ovation.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, McKechnie is a legit legend in his field with a career that began in the mid-70s, having worked with everyone from tennis legend Jimmy Connors, Canadian soccer star Owen Hargreaves, and basketballers Steve Nash (a Canadian hero) and Shaquille O’Neal. It was while working with that last name that McKechnie really made his name in the NBA as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers coaching staff that bulldozed their way to five championships from 2000 to 2011.
Second, McKechnie emerged in Toronto as something of a folk hero after spending a few years in the shadows of a sadsack franchise. This feeling peaked in 2016 as the Raptors were making their rough-and-tumble march to the Eastern Conference Finals and McKechnie was front and centre administering one of his more unorthodox techniques. In Game 5 of Toronto’s series with the Heat, star DeMar DeRozan was still dealing with a sprained thumb that had been affecting his shooting all series. In that critical contest, McKechnie was photographed wrapping DeRozan’s hand with a red shoelace to help the Raptors’ star swingman regain his shooting form. In the game, a Toronto win, DeRozan would shoot 50 percent from the field and a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line.
And third, we arrive at two words: load management. While the final final outcome of the Kawhi Leonard saga in Toronto was perhaps not what we here in the city wanted, it was McKechnie’s work behind the scenes — work Kawhi credited more than once — that kept the team’s superstar happy throughout the season as they climbed all the way to the 2019 NBA championship. If nothing else, we’ll have McKechnie to thank in part for keeping Kawhi healthy enough to crush one playoff foe after another.
So that does it. McKechnie’s place in Toronto is now secure for the immediate future. And if anyone else on the team needs some special, out-of-the-box medical treatment, it feels certain that he’ll be the man to come up with and administer it.
For more, check out this cool one-on-one with McKechnie on Raptors dot com from all the way back in 2011. We’ve come a long way together.