Flip Saunders in, David Kahn out
The Minnesota Timberwolves have named Flip Saunders as the team's new president of basketball operations.
Saunders confirmed to ESPN on Thursday night that he had signed a long-term deal while also getting a minority ownership stake in the team.
With Saunders as a part-owner, longtime owner Glen Taylor is expected to take the team off the market, sources said. He had been looking for a buyer who would keep the team in Minneapolis.
The "godfather"-style deal with Saunders, who coached the Wolves from 1995 to 2006, is similar to the arrangement Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat.
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There's nothing everyone in the NBA agrees on, except perhaps that David Kahn was horrible at his job. But ask yourself this, other GMs: If Kahn's such an idiot, how come the Wolves' roster has affordable young talent, payroll flexibility and real upside? Henry Abbott takes a look. TrueHoop
Despite his many blunders, David Kahn has put the Timberwolves in a good position moving forward, writes Bradford Doolitte. Story
However, Saunders, an ESPN NBA analyst, is not planning to coach Minnesota.
Rick Adelman is expected to continue in that role if he decides to return next season. Adelman missed 11 games this past season to be with his wife, Mary Kay, while she was treated for seizures.
Earlier Thursday, the Wolves announced they were not picking up the option on president David Kahn's contract for next season.
"We want to thank David for all of his efforts the past four years with our basketball team," Taylor said in a statement issued by the team. "These are always difficult decisions, but at this time, we believe it is in the best interest of our organization to make a change. We wish David all the best in the future."
Kahn spent four seasons leading the Timberwolves. He helped bring point guard Ricky Rubio and Adelman to Minnesota, but his teams went 89-223 and missed the playoffs in all four of his seasons.
"It's always the owner's prerogative," Kahn told The Associated Press in a phone conversation Thursday. "I don't think it's appropriate to say whether it's fair or not. I'm very grateful for the opportunity that Glen gave me."
Taylor's decision brings an end to a polarizing reign for Kahn. After serving as an executive with the Indiana Pacers, Kahn was a surprise hire in 2009 to replace longtime Timberwolves executive Kevin McHale. Kahn eventually decided not to bring McHale back as coach, then went about a massive rebuilding of a team that was still trying to move on after trading franchise player Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007.
Kahn tabbed Kurt Rambis to usher in a new identity and style of play, but he lasted just two seasons on the job. With cleaning up the team's salary-cap situation a priority in the first season, the Wolves won just 15 games with a collection of retreads and journeymen surrounding Al Jefferson, who was in his first season back from a torn ACL, and Kevin Love, who was in his second season in the league.
Kahn and Rambis clashed repeatedly on the direction of the team and the philosophy on the court. Rambis was fired with a record of 32-132, and Kahn was able to lure Adelman in 2011 to take over a roster that was just starting to take shape. With Rubio emerging as a young dynamo in his rookie season and Love asserting himself as perhaps the best power forward in the game, the Timberwolves were on track to end a long playoff drought until Rubio went down with a torn ACL in March 2012.
Perhaps more damaging, Kahn drew Love's wrath by refusing to give him a maximum five-year extension in January 2012. Love instead signed a four-year deal with an opt-out after three seasons and didn't hide his disappointment. He seethed behind the scenes and publicly about the perceived slight, a grudge that would carry over into this season.
"I think Kevin is on a journey from the individual to the team," Kahn said. "It's a journey that many players have taken in their careers. I've had several positive conversations with Kevin in the last couple of months. I sense that he's making that journey, and he recognizes there are many bumps in the road, and he's making that journey to the team. I'm hopeful he'll arrive safely there. I like him a lot."
The team tumbled out of the playoff picture, but hopes were high at the start of this season when Kahn added Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham to the mix. Then Love broke his hand just before the regular season started and broke it again in January, limiting the Olympian to 18 games for the season. Rubio returned from his knee injury in mid-December but didn't regain his old form until February, Budinger missed more than three months with a knee injury and Kahn's gamble on Brandon Roy proved to be ill-fated. Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea also missed stretches because of injuries, and the Wolves finished 31-51.
Most of Kahn's biggest missteps came in the draft. He chose Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry in 2009 with the sixth overall pick, traded a pick that Denver used to take Ty Lawson and chose swingman Wesley Johnson fourth overall in 2010. Only two of the 10 draft picks the Timberwolves made in his four years -- Rubio and 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams -- are on the roster.
"The team has been headed in the right direction and will continue to be headed in the right direction," Kahn said. "I think this team will be a force to be reckoned with for many years. It's young. It's deep. It's talented. It simply needs to become healthy again."
Saunders, 58, went 411-326 in 9½ seasons as Timberwolves coach, guiding the team to eight consecutive playoff berths.
Saunders started his tenure with the Timberwolves in May 1995 as president, then added the title of coach seven months later. He shed the title of GM in 2000 in the wake of salary-cap violations related to the signing of Joe Smith.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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