In Kahn We, Sadly, Can No Longer Trust. Long ago, when I was young and naïve, I envisioned writing an article called “In Kahn We Trust” hoping to stick it to the ESPN clowns after the Wolves made a major turnaround. But, it appears not to be, as they were right in the end. David Kahn has not worked out.
Whining, ranting, pessimism, self-loathing. This is the tone that is about to be heavily prominent in this write-up. So, if you are sensitive to those kinds of things, or would rather think positive things about the “Kahn plan," I humbly ask you to either respect the take that Is about to unravel, or instead return to your land where unicorns prance openly, and where David Kahn is instead the doppelganger of a small Leprechaun.
Okay, okay, perhaps a bit harsh and dramatic to start things out, but the point is: things are bad. Very bad. There is no other way to put it aside from now hindering workplace productivity and pumping out a few thousand words about nothing positive, nor encouraging, as it pertains to this team we so blindly follow as if something good might happen other than 75% completion of a fast break possession (progress!). But, let’s back waaayyy up here for a moment, to a land free of run-on sentences (a place, as I have already demonstrated, we are definitely not in).
When David Ebenezer Kahn was hired in May of 2009, there was a general wave of optimism. Whether this optimism was misguided due to spillover from the long-awaited end to the McHale era remains to be seen. But before Kahn was hired we had 3 others in the final consideration pool (that we know of): Dennis Lindsey of the Spurs, Randy Pfund of the Miami-based Nightingale Manor Assisted Living Facility, and the legendary Tom Penn. To the best of what was gathered based on’09 reports, Pfund was asking for over $4 million, a salary many would agree is much too high. Penn ended up using us for personal gain in Portland (he was later fired for doing so), but Lindsey was the most interesting case. It is fully unclear what made Lindsey withdraw, but reports at the time suggested it had to do with a lack of front office autonomy. If I had to guess, this was tied to a lack of budgetary discretion for building his own front office, not retaining McHale. Kahn demonstrated his ability to fire McHale only weeks later. And thus after Lindsey withdrew, we ended up with the man who was our obvious first choice all along, and anybody who said otherwise was “completely wrong” according to Glen Taylor. Enter David Kahn, of whom, during his legendary introductory press conference, compared himself to glam rock artist Adam Lambert, pretended that he wasn’t absolutely desperate to get a job, name dropped George Karl, and used the term “our league” not once, but five times. Yet, here we were, ready to usher in a new era. And we bought into it, the scent of McHale still lingering.
Kahn’s very first “transaction” was to dismiss Kevin McHale as coach, which hit hard and home with many. Opinion at the time seemed to split on this maneuver. Had it not been for the gargantuan Russia-sized bowel movement McHale had left on the front office, he might have made a fantastic coach for this young squad. A laid back type, yet firm and fair. Positive. Not arrogant, but humble and human. Empowered players to bring the best out in themselves with his laid back, Midwestern charm. The anti-Rhombus. Not to tangent, but I often wonder why coaches do not seem more receptive to feedback. In a corporate setting, the stubborn mules tend to be the least respected. And in basketball, a respect for your coach is basically mandatory for team success. Coaches make errors too, and nothing, personally, makes me respect or hold someone in higher regard than a willingness to admit and learn from mistakes. Tangent over.
Shortly after the McHale dismissal, Kahn began wheeling and dealing. His first basketball-related move, at the time, was a good one: trading Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the 5th pick in the 2009 draft, Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas and Oleksiy Pecherov. From a value standpoint, we won big. This pick, as most know, turned out to be Ricky Rubio. The same Rubio, might I add, could be in danger of not joining the team next year due to current Collective Bargaining Agreement issues. However, that night, all was magical. The Target Center-based draft party was louder than any Timberwolves event since the ’04 Western Finals. Unicorns were running rampant (literally, see photo below):
All was well. This was the apex of Kahn’s career as President of Basketball Operations, a title which Kahn of course says is “meaningless.”
Shortly after, we selected Jonny Flynn, passing over a projected top 5, dead-eye shooter in Stephen Curry. An odd buzz permeated Target Center. Confused patrons could be heard mumbling things such as “a trade must be in the works.” And then Kahn stepped out to the podium, dressed in a blue-button up, to address the crowd:
“You are going to love Jonny Flynn…. We think these two (Flynn and Rubio) can play together.”
One cannot blame Kahn for jumping on a tax-starved Wizards team, or for taking Rubio. Surely he could have done more homework on the buyout situation, but passing on Ricky would have been a very large PR blunder as your first ever draft pick. It is the Flynn pick that, well, do we need to elaborate?
Many remain confused to this day. Had it not been for the post-McHale era Kool-Aid (which provided Kahn FAR too much time, in hindsight), Draft Day ’09 was the start of Kahn’s fall into the GM we know today; the man many could argue is worse than Kevin McHale. The same McHale Kahn had fired days before. The same McHale who acquired our current All-Star. Who do you blame? The Chicken or the Egg? Does the old saying not apply somewhat to this scenario? If you bought a used car for $2,000, would you expect it to drive like a brand new $35,000 Audi? Glen Taylor thinks so, apparently. And yet, we bought into it.
Shortly following came the much-heralded signing of our current coaching staff, lead by the legend himself Kurt “Darrell Rhombus” Rambis, and his minions Bill Laimbeer, Reggie Theus, film director Woody Allen, and JB Bickerstaff. A very positively received hiring by the fan base at the time lead to a joyous harmony of:
"Triangle Offense!” “LA Lakers!” “Phil Jackson’s heir apparent!.” ”He talks just like Phil!”
Little did we know.
After a series of cost-cutting trades (Kahn averaged one trade/signing every two-weeks from August-October, 2009), we had the 2009-2010 Wolves poop-fest headlined by Damien Wilkins, Sasha Pavlovic, Pecherov and Nathan Jawai. Because apparently marijuana and heavy drugs were legal in Minnesota at the time, I predicted 30 wins in a season preview post. We won 15.
“A growing year.” “It doesn’t really count.” “Bad roster.” ”Ha, Pecherov?”
The human psyche tells us many things to convince us we couldn’t possibly be wrong. Quick hypothetical: If you could go back in time and slap yourself for thinking something, would it be ask that beautiful girl on a date you never had the courage to speak to… or to tell yourself you are an idiot for supporting the Rambis hire? Kind of a tough call.
But, despite the 15 wins and the susequent 2010 draft, many bought it anyways.
Rambis, has, in short, been a complete disaster as a head coach. There is currently no single basketball-related counterpoint that someone can provide (believe me, I have tried to find one, and have asked his small faction of supporters…to no avail) that suggests otherwise other than the nauseating “give ‘em more time” mantra. How many examples do we need to provide in order to invoke an understanding of the level of coaching incompetence coming from the man barking orders in his ‘pretend-to-sound-like-Phil-Jackson’ rasp? A few, in typical run-on form: thinking Kevin Love is a 6th man, playing 11 players in first halves, refusing to close out 3-point shots, alienating your young point guard, becoming, at one point, the worst coach in team history record-wise, having the exact same # of wins as last year (in what was the worst season in franchise history) to date, completely disregarding player's strengths and comfort levels. So many more examples.And we want Ricky Rubio within 3 feet of this guy? Long story short, he had his chance. But most importantly, again, the team currently has the exact same number of wins as last year. Oh by the way, rather under the radar, the Wolves just hired a consultant to provide an outside evaluation as to just what is going on with this team. Again, all I ask is one reason not related to patience.
Kahn was not done, though. Another draft passed in which he picked, or traded for, 3 players who play the same position, passing over DeMarcus Cousins in the process. But then, after making his annual slew of cost-cutting moves, Kahn had previously promised us he was freeing up money to make a big move via three windows of opportunity. At first these windows were the ’10 trade deadline, the ‘10 draft and the ’11 Trade Deadline, the last of which is next Thursday. Now, after little materialized, the windows were conveniently pushed out in his latest “letter to the fans” before the season. This bought Kahn more time to make cost cutting moves and draft underperforming players. So where is this plan? Do you not realize our cap space has an expiration date, and it pretty much is next Thursday? Does this all seem like an unplanned representation of sheer boobery and BS or is it just me?
Another tangent….Let me pause and say this about DeMarcus Cousins: anyone who honestly takes a step back and says “I would still pass on Cousins today” seems to be grasping at Wolves-colored straws. In the NBA, behavioral issues are two-fold. You have the criminal-types who do drugs and get into legal trouble; and you have the temperamental, but over-competitive type. Think Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett vs. Eddy Curry (who we were ironically rumored to be acquiring last week) or Ron Artest (to a lesser degree). DeMarcus Cousins is in camp A in every way, and may one day be a better player than Rasheed Wallace. Wes Johnson MIGHT one day be better than Ryan Gomes. Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett have championships. Championships that these “head cases” helped their teams win. Wes Johnson is scared to draw fouls. There is such a night and day difference between being over-competitive and showing an on-court fire, and being a “criminal” head case. Cousin’s issues are derived from, at least, positive intentions. While he is absolutely in the wrong without question, this is not something to start a witch hunt over. Our front office made a mistake passing on him, plain and simple, and thus to date the only solid draft pick Kahn has made based on pick position and value appears to be Wayne Ellington. Perhaps the 16th pick for Webster trade, but our coach seems to think Webster is a slasher versus a deadly shooter, and thus our death spiral continues. And it will not stop until one or both of these guys is pushed aside.
But Kahn was not done yet! He then traded away both of his 2009 free-agent signings, one of which had his own press conference with the team a year prior, giving up a 2nd rounder and cash to do so, and taking on salary in return. One actual, serious response I remember reading in Wolves-dom? “Oh, it’s great he is learning from his mistakes and taking corrective action!”
What preposterous rationalization will we make next to justify the incompetence? And we are supposedly trading a first round pick for Anthony Randolph? And you also gave up a draft pick to gift away Ramon Sessions, who just put up 32 and 8 in a win against the defending champions? Speaking of proper value assessment...
This was preceded by a trade of Al Jefferson for 2 first round picks, cap space (!!!), and Koufos (who had, of course, starter potential because he was ONCE a first round pick). The cap space was to be used for the aforementioned “singular move.” Oddly, the Al trade was a trade some, including myself, supported. Despite the going-ons in Utah and what appears imminent with our cap space (nothing), again Kahn gets cents on the dollar for another valuable asset.
I am curious what the front-office-fed excuse is going to be when the trade deadline passes with maybe a relatively harsh overpayment for Anthony Randolph or Hasheem Thabeet. Your singular move. Actually, no, your singular crap on the proverbial head of your glorious window of opportunity to do something with a slew of assets. Assets that, to date, have netted us a group of confused wings, a young, black-hole former #2 pick playing out of position (yet, still a bright spot), a coach who couldn’t manage a group of typing monkeys, and the maintenance of the 2nd best rebounder since 1982. The biggest bright spot coming from the guy Kahn fired, and who initially he wanted to mold into a 6th man. And somewhere, the sound of Rubio can be heard laughing.
Yet, Rambis and Kahn are still defended. "Give them time!" Absolutely not! No more time after all that has transpired. At what point are we going to stop gifting away our assets? At what point do the rebuilding trades stop where one big asset net us 3 (or 1) smaller asset(s)? At what point do we stop overpaying?
And here we are today, with 13 wins, having just lost a game in which our starting 1-3 combined for a single point.
David Kahn, your legacy. Created by your own dishonesty and mismanagement of expectations. You have done Our Town well. Speaking of town, I want to say that I firmly believe a swift change to the front office can make an immediate difference. It is easy and painless. Let Kahn go home, and leave ‘Our League’ for awhile. Let Tony Ronzone get a 1 or 2 year trial run that provides him a 7-digit budget to beef up his FO. Then let Rambis go and give Laimbeer a shot. While at the women’s level, Laimbeer has proven he can coach and win at a professional-level, and lead people whom, quite frankly, are very different than he is. This is not something to sneeze at. The move would be quick, painless, and suddenly the Wolves have a front office with a track record of success, that is also free of shady characters and with no long-term commitments. And, most importantly, no more Kahn, who has just proven time and time again that he is only good at one thing: turning silver into coal.
Do it Taylor. Do it for Our Team. Or Kahn, please prove us wrong next week, it might be your last chance.
PS: This article should not be the only voice on the front page. A lot of people disagree with what is contained here. Anyone is welcome to write up a counter post (ideally a forum contributor), hopefully with better grammar and spelling, and we will plop it right up. This site isn't designed to be my personal soap box.
Warm Regards and Go Wolves!