VP title or not, McHale still looks like the boss

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2008 - 12:39 PM

He's lost his VP title, but Kevin McHale still looks like he will have the final say on Wolves moves.

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Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale reacted to yet another oncourt turnover by the Wolves that helped the Denver Nuggets to pull away for the win.

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Earl Weaver was beyond colorful as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Once, he was being harassed by reporters about removing Mike Cuellar from the starting rotation and said, "I've given Cuellar more chances than I gave my first wife.''

That quote can be spun off and used to describe the current NBA situation in Minnesota:

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has given Kevin McHale more chances than he has given a wife or two.

In the spring of 2007, Taylor valiantly attempted to reduce McHale's power. The owner announced that he would be more involved in basketball matters, and there would be strong input from front office assistants Jim Stack, Rob Babcock and Fred Hoiberg in personnel decisions.

McHale's response was to shrug and say not much had changed. And then a few months after Glen's big shakeup, McHale made the blockbuster deal of all-time -- sending Kevin Garnett to Boston for a handful of players and draft choices.

This summer, McHale made another huge deal. The key pieces were rookie O.J. Mayo going to Memphis and rookie Kevin Love and veteran Mike Miller coming to the Wolves.

Coach Randy Wittman was asked in late October if the Wolves were better than in 2007-08. He looked directly at his questioner and gave a guarantee that was the case.

He was wrong -- so much so that he basically spent the past three weeks sounding like a coach who wanted to be fired.

A version of "the players aren't doing what they're told to do'' became Wittman's postgame mantra. When a coach keeps suggesting the athletes aren't listening to him, it's basically a request to get paid off and move on.

The accuracy of Wittman's self-evaluation was dramatized over the weekend with a 29-point loss at New Jersey and a 23-point home-court loss to the Clippers.

McHale said he knew from the look on Taylor's face after the Clippers' game Saturday that a change was on the way. On Sunday, the owner told McHale that he wanted him to take over as fulltime coach and give up his title as vice president for basketball operations.

Taylor wouldn't specify what his next move with McHale would have been if Kevin had declined.

Yet, when you consider how much of Monday's lengthy news conference the owner spent assuring the media and the public that McHale was no longer in charge of basketball operations, it's obvious Taylor was ready to bounce him by season's end.

So, he took the coaching job and lost the title, but when the questions stopped Monday, there was the impression McHale will continue to have more influence in personnel matters than anyone.

That's because Taylor left behind a vacuum -- left Stack, Babcock and Hoiberg to do some of this, some of that, but no one in charge.

All we found out for sure Monday is that McHale won't be the guy answering the phone and making the calls on the daily basis. And there's a lot of anecdotal evidence that manning the office wasn't a McHale strong point anyway.

Taylor said Stack would be making and taking those calls now, and he was making most of them previously.

I'm not sure anyone believes that, if McHale discovers on his travels the Wolves could trade Rashad McCants for a big man of some quality, that Stack, Babcock or Hoiberg will reach up, shake a finger in Kevin's face and say, "We've taken a vote, Kevin, and we're not going to do that.''

The speculation in the media and with some people in the Wolves' business operation has been that Hoiberg -- a popular former player -- is Taylor's target as the next VP for basketball.

There are other Target Center folks who will tell you this: The affable Hoiberg might have reached the zenith of his basketball savvy as an assistant general manager. Anything more could cause his cranium to overheat.

Babcock definitely has the pedigree for evaluating talent over both Stack and Hoiberg. Then again, does it matter if the choice were Stack, Hoiberg or Babcock?

If Taylor stays in-house for his VP for basketball while McHale stays on the sideline, we know who will be making the roster decisions, no matter the title.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

  • MCHALE'S DEBUT

    WOLVES VS. UTAH

    7 tonight • Target Center

    TV: FSN (1130-AM)

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