Sid Hartman: Taylor stays patient with young Wolves

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2010 - 12:23 AM

The team is losing plenty of money, but its owner is happy with new hires David Kahn and Kurt Rambis.

The Wolves have won only 14 of 59 games this season, and while their attendance is up over last year's anemic figures, the team expects to lose close to $25 million, and some of the minority owners would like to sell the part of the team they own. However, owner Glen Taylor said he doesn't have any thoughts of either selling or moving the team, and he is confident that the present management will eventually have the Wolves competing with the best teams in the NBA.

"Nope, I'm too competitive to give up," said Taylor, who also is in deep red ink operating the WNBA's Lynx but believes that professional women's basketball should get its opportunity.

Taylor confirms that the Wolves will be part of teams in the NBA that will lose a total of $400 million or more this season.

About the new management, Taylor said one of the things he is most happy about is the hiring of David Kahn as president of basketball operations and Kurt Rambis as coach.

"I think the fan in me would have liked to see us win more of some of these close games at home," he said. "We've lost a number of games in the last few minutes where we just didn't come through, and it would have been exciting to do that. But, overall, looking at the players and knowing what they're going to go through with young guys, I guess I have to be satisfied."

Taylor said he believes Kahn and Rambis are doing what he expected when they were hired.

"Yes, I'm pleased with both David and the coaching staff. I just think they've been very patient," Taylor said. "They said to me: Give us a year to look at these guys and let us do an evaluation and let's see if we can get them to improve. My expectation is that when we get to the end of this season, they will make some changes and they'll be comfortable with some of the guys."

Taylor said the losing is not unexpected.

"Everything that we have done this last year and probably the last two years, we've kind of looked at getting ourselves ready for a young team in the sense that we don't have long-term obligations, so we have a lot of flexibility coming this next year," Taylor said. "If the draft was held today, we would get three [first-round picks] and maybe more than what we need. We still have our two guys over in Europe [Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic], so we've got a lot of chances to improve."

Tough to sign top guys

This summer's NBA free-agent class figures to be one of the best in a long time, perhaps ever. But if you talk to NBA experts, they will tell you it will be difficult to lure any of the top free agents to the Wolves, and that these players want to play with a winner. Taylor agrees.

"I think it would have to be a younger good player [that signs here as a free agent]," Taylor said. "I think the established players, the established players that are towards the end of their career, are going to want to go with teams that immediately are going to be involved in the playoff experience. But, what we're banking on is that there are a number of younger guys in the league that will probably even get better, but there's no question that they have talent that we could use on our team, that might be interested in our team. But, there's a number of things that are involved, money is always a big one, do they like the coach and the system -- all of these are factors."

There are a lot of empty seats at Wolves home games, and the team has heavily discounted tickets all around. But Taylor says he is not disappointed with attendance.

"The attendance has been pretty good," he said. "I wish we would have won more games and had a better record for our people, but considering we're [talking] the league as a whole, we're not disappointed."

Well, the Timberwolves are fortunate to have an owner who is so confident about the future, because a lot of other owners would give up and sell or move the team.

U had best track depth

Roy Griak was the track and cross-country coach for the Gophers for 33 years (1963 to '96) and now serves as a consultant to track coach Steve Plasencia, whose Gophers play host to the Big Ten indoor championship this weekend, an event they won last year for their first conference indoor title since 1988.

"This is the deepest Gopher track team I have ever been around," Griak said. "It has equal depth at every event. They will contend for the championship, but they will have to fight Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana and Michigan. However, the home track is an advantage."

Leading the Gophers' attack will be All-America junior Hassan Mead, the former Minneapolis South athlete who won the 3,000 and 5,000 meters at last year's indoor, capturing the 5,000 in a school-record time of 13 minutes, 58.16 seconds. He's also an All-America selection in outdoor track and cross-country.

Jottings

Cory Joseph, the basketball guard heavily recruited by the Gophers and the younger brother of current Gophers guard Devoe Joseph, is now also being recruited by coach Tubby Smith's former school Kentucky, with Wildcats coach John Calipari visiting the high school senior this past week. Michael Peck, Cory's coach at Findlay Prep School in Nevada, told Gopher Illustrated that Joseph's list still includes only five schools: Minnesota, Texas, UNLV, Villanova and Connecticut. Joseph could be the point guard the Gophers need, and this month he was selected for the McDonald's All-America team.

Describing his career-high 21 points in the Gophers' 59-58 loss to No. 3 Purdue on Wednesday, center Ralph Sampson III said: "After we got adjusted to [the offense] I found out that there was a weight advantage that I had [over Purdue's JaJuan Johnson], and so I tried to exploit that as much as possible and during the rest of the game that's what you saw, me trying to exploit that advantage." ... Of the Gophers' 11 losses, nine have been by single digits, many coming after they led late in the game. "We had a lot of things, a lot of different issues that happened this year that were very tough for the team, but we've got to play through that," said senior forward Damian Johnson.

The Gophers will play host to the 2011 NCAA men's swimming championship. ... The Gophers baseball team faces St. John's on Friday, Connecticut on Saturday and Louisville on Sunday, with all three games in Florida as part of the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. ... Gophers pitchers posted a 1.33 ERA in beating Akron two of three in Fort Myers, Fla., last weekend.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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