I began writing a column for the Star Tribune in 2004. I have never before issued a statement so bold, so brave, as the one that follows:
I believe that the Minnesota Timberwolves are about to not screw up.
This is a franchise that has won one playoff game and zero playoff series in the past 15 years, that has won two playoff series in franchise history in a sport in which mediocrity gets you into the postseason and the draft is weighted to help bad teams.
This is the franchise that spent a decade hiring only friends and family members, and then proved that it wasn’t very good at hiring people it didn’t know well.
This is the franchise that hired David Kahn, the least competent decisionmaker in Twin Cities sports history.
A memory: I questioned Kahn’s credentials before he was hired. I was approached by a couple of Timberwolves executives who complained about the column and asked why I didn’t have more respect for someone who had been Donnie Walsh’s right-hand man with the Indiana Pacers.
This offered a glimpse into just how incompetent the Wolves organization was at the time. Kahn made no basketball decisions for the Pacers. He was not Walsh’s right-hand man. He was shoved aside and asked to work on the Conseco Fieldhouse project so he wouldn’t bother the Pacers’ basketball operations people.
I knew this, and I knew very little about the NBA. Timberwolves executives, making a high-impact, big-money hire at the end of a lengthy search, somehow did not know this.
How do you take Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio instead of Steph Curry with the fifth and sixth picks in the draft? By hiring Kahn and letting him run the draft, even though he had no personnel expertise.
To complete the team’s credibility implosion, Kahn hired Kurt Rambis as his head coach, and Rambis became the worst head coach in Timberwolves history.
I remind you of those dark times because the Wolves once were the dumbest sports organization in America, and there is reason to believe that they aren’t anymore.
They have completed their interviews with four candidates for the job of president of basketball operations.
Unlike when they hired Kahn, they have interviewed intriguing and even qualified candidates.
Unlike when they hired Tom Thibodeau, they did not rely on a search firm, which is the worst idea in sports other than hiring David Kahn. If your sports organization has to hire a search firm to make an important hire, you do not have a sports organization. You have poseurs making big money sitting in corner offices avoiding responsibility.
There are two reasons to feel encouraged by the current search:
1. The candidates are legitimate. Calvin Booth would be a safe choice. He’s worked for the Wolves, so he knows the landscape and its sinkholes, and he has helped the Nuggets surge past the Wolves in the past year. Chauncey Billups is liked and respected if inexperienced. Gersson Rojas could bring Houston’s analytics and player development to Minnesota. Trajan Langdon is thought to be a rising star the Wolves may never again get a chance to hire.
2. The process is simple and professional. Wolves CEO Ethan Casson is respected in the organization for the work he’s done on the business side, and was aggressive in removing Thibodeau when he thought the time was right. He tried to interview esteemed Clippers GM Michael Winger before settling on the other four finalists.
This is not Glen Taylor hiring David Kahn. This is not a search committee that knows little about basketball reading internet articles to figure out who should be hired. This isn’t the owner hiring a golf pal.
Success is never guaranteed, no matter which candidate the Wolves pick. Remember, Thibodeau was considered the best coaching candidate on the market, and he lasted less than three years on the job.
But at least the process isn’t an embarrassment this time.