I have a lot of respect for Glen Taylor, the owner of the Timberwolves and the Star Tribune. And over the years since he purchased the Wolves in 1994 we have become very close friends even though I still report the news about the Wolves like I do in every sport, negative or positive.
There is a reason that Taylor is one of the most successful businessmen in this area, and a reason he is a billionaire. And he must know something about sports because for the second year in a row Taylor was elected the chairman of the NBA’s ownership group.
But I believe the decision to not rehire Sam Mitchell as head coach is wrong. Taylor is putting himself in danger of pulling a David Kahn move by not allowing Mitchell to continue the great job he has done of developing the best collection of young players the Wolves have ever had.
Kahn is the general manager Taylor and company hired in 2009. He proceeded to pass on drafting Stephen Curry, the Golden State phenom who just had one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, in 2009, taking Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio before Curry was selected. Then in 2010 Kahn passed on DeMarcus Cousins, who is now one of the best centers in the NBA playing for the Sacramento Kings, and took Wesley Johnson.
Mitchell and his staff just completed a great end to the season, winning three straight games on the road, including at Golden State, and finishing the season with a great offensive show, a 144-109 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday. And after the game the players, who were ecstatic about their great performance, were shocked to hear that Mitchell, along with his staff, had no chance to return to continue their tremendous teaching job.
Mitchell proved he could coach when he led the Raptors to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008 and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2007. But he was fired early in the next season because of a poor personal relationship with the Raptors’ new general manager, Bryan Colangelo, one of the worst executives in the NBA.
The first assistant coach the late Flip Saunders hired when he decided to take over the head coaching job was Mitchell. And I remember Flip telling me how lucky he was to find Mitchell available because of what a great contribution the former Timberwolves player would make to the staff.
Continuity is so important in coaching players year after year, especially young and impressionable players. And now, unless Taylor changes his mind, a new coach will come in, put in a new system and maybe set back some of these great young players.
All three coaches who have been mentioned as candidates — Tom Thibodeau, formerly of the Bulls; Scott Brooks, formerly of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Jeff Van Gundy, who has been out of the league for nine years but works as an analyst, were fired from their previous positions. However, to report fairly, Thibodeau and Brooks were both let go because general managers wanted to hire friends as head coaches.
Furthermore, any of these three coaches will insist on being paid a lot more money than Mitchell was being paid and will expect to have total control of the basketball team.
Taylor, a man I have so much respect for because of all of the great things he does for this community, is putting himself on the spot by not bringing Mitchell back. In my opinion, somebody talked Taylor into firing Mitchell and that somebody will be sorry.
If Mitchell’s successor is a failure like Kahn was, Taylor will be blamed because he made the change.
If the players had their way, Mitchell would have returned and that would have created a better chance for a more successful season next year than there will be with a new regime.
Twins’ worst start
The Twins’ 0-9 start to the season is the worst in major league baseball since the Detroit Tigers went 0-11 to start the 2002 season.
While the batters have struggled, the starting pitching has been solid, and Ervin Santana continued that on Thursday. He allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out six over seven innings in the loss. Santana has now pitched at least seven innings in eight of his past 10 starts, and one of those starts that didn’t reach seven innings was the season opener that was shortened because of rain.
Meanwhile, Joe Mauer continues to be one of the few bright spots offensively as he went 1-for-3 with a triple, the 25th of his career.
• Karl-Anthony Towns finished the season with a 54.2 shooting percentage, the second-highest single-season mark in Wolves history, trailing only Nikola Pekovic’s mark of 56.4 percent in 2011-12. … Zach LaVine finished fifth in team history in three-pointers with 123, Andrew Wiggins was sixth in free throws made with 430, and Rubio was sixth in assists with 657.
• Mario Lucia, the son of Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia, is playing for the Iowa Wild and has three points on one goal and two assists in seven games. … Former Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox finished a strong season for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, posting an 11-6 record with a 3.30 goals-against average. … Former Gophers right winger Hudson Fasching finished his first pro season with the Buffalo Sabres and had one goal and one assist in seven games. He’s still just 20 years old.
• Former Concordia (Moorhead) quarterback Griffin Neal has signed a three-year deal with the New Orleans Saints after working out with the team as a nonroster free agent. It’s a standard free-agent rookie deal, which means it is not guaranteed, but it’s still a great sign for Neal.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org