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Continued: Kahn, Rambis to return next year

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 25, 2011 - 11:25 AM

Rob Moor, chief executive officer of the Timberwolves and the man who hired David Kahn as president of basketball operations, said Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis will be back next year, even though the team has won 13 games this season, 15 last year and the overall record to date of the Kahn-Rambis era is 28-112.

"When we hired Kahn and Kahn hired Rambis, we promised them three years to develop a winning team," Moor said. "We figure it would take at least that long to turn the program around. We feel they are making progress despite their record."

Normally when a team is posting a horrible record like the Timberwolves have and the team is not drawing, the coach and the guy calling the basketball shots are in trouble. But that isn't the case here with a team that has gone through nine coaches since the franchise first began play in 1989-90.

The man with the toughest job in the Wolves organization is team president Chris Wright.

How would you like Wright's job of selling season tickets for 2011-2012 after the past two losing seasons the Wolves have experienced?

Believe me, the Wolves might be better next year but in the tough Western Conference, there is no chance they will even be a .500 team. Kahn is no miracle man.

Actually, the Wolves' slide started in the middle of the 2005 season when, after coaching the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 against the Lakers, coach Flip Saunders was fired.

The day Saunders was fired, my close personal friend Marty Davis and a group were returning from Ames, Iowa, after watching Bobby Knight's Texas Tech team play Iowa State. We turned on the radio in the bus to hear the unbelievable news that Saunders had been fired.

Nobody was more shocked about the firing than Kevin Garnett, who was very close to Saunders. From that day on, Garnett quit performing like he had before and when Garnett was traded to Boston -- for only one player (Sebastian Telfair) who is still with the team today -- the franchise went into the tank.

Saunders coached here 9 1/2 seasons and is the only Wolves coach to have a better than .500 career winning percentage at .558 (411-326).

And Saunders and Randy Wittman are the only coaches who lasted more than two seasons with the Wolves. And Wittman's tenure comes with caveats, because he inherited the team halfway through the 2006-2007 season after Dwane Casey was fired, went 22-60 in 2007-2008 and was fired 19 games into his third season in 2008.

The other seven coaches records and winning percentages are Bill Musselman, .311 (51-113 from 1989-1991), Jimmy Rodgers, .189 (21-90 from 1991-1993), Sidney Lowe, .244 (33-102 from 1993-1994), Bill Blair, .265 (27-75 from 1994-1996), Kevin McHale, .351 (39-55, split between 2005 and the 2008-2009 seasons), Casey, .449 (53-65 from 2005-2007), and Rambis .200 (28-112 from 2009-present).

You need some continuity in coaching if you are going to win.

So for that reason it might be wise for owner Glen Taylor to keep Kahn and Rambis around for a period to see if they can do what most other Wolves coaches have not done.

Dutcher does well

The best thing that happened to Brian Dutcher, son of former Gophers men's basketball coach Jim Dutcher and now the assistant head coach under Steve Fisher at San Diego State, is that former Gophers coach Dan Monson didn't hire Brian when Monson had an opening before the 2004-2005 season.

Brian stayed with Fisher, who he had worked under for 10 years at Michigan, and is in his 12th year with San Diego State. The Aztecs are ranked sixth in the country with a 27-1 record and have won 26, 25, and 27 games the past three seasons.

San Diego Union columnist Nick Canepa described Dutcher as "the coach inside the coach, Steve Fisher's eyes, ears and confidant -- and when needed, his conscience, his mind reader. He comes with portfolio."

Fisher says Dutcher should be a head coach.

"Brian does everything a head coach should do and does it in an extraordinary fashion," Fisher said. "There's a constant with Brian. He is family-based. That is what we preach, what we prioritize."

Jottings

Close friends of Vikings receiver Sidney Rice claim the surgery he had on his hip didn't cure the problem, that he played in pain when he returned to the lineup and that the problem is arthritis and it's still troubling him.

Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe is ranked high in a number of Big Ten statistical categories. The junior transfer is first in rebounding at 10.4 per game, well ahead of Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, who is second at 9.9 per game. Mbakwe is second in field-goal percentage, shooting 59.5 percent from the field, behind only Jordan Morgan of Michigan who is shooting 63.2 percent. In blocked shots, Mbakwe is sixth with 1.52 per game, with teammate Ralph Sampson III in second place at 2.07 per game. Mbakwe is tied with teammate Blake Hoffarber for 14th in scoring at 13.7 points per game. ... Mbakwe is the only Big Ten player to average a double-double this season. Making this even more impressive is the fact that Mbakwe is only 22nd in the league in minutes played at 30.2 per game.

Former Gophers linebackers and special teams coach John Butler, who worked under Tim Brewster, didn't stay long in his new job with the Houston Texans after being hired Feb. 11. He has joined Steve Spurrier at South Carolina as special teams coach.

Former Hopkins standout Trent Lockett, who leads Arizona State in scoring at 13.9 points per game and is second in rebounding at 5.4 per game, scored 20 points last Saturday to help the host Sun Devils beat Washington State 71-69, ending their nine-game losing streak.

Lockett, a 6-4 sophomore, also blocked a late three-point attempt by Cougars junior Klay Thompson with Arizona State protecting a 70-67 lead.

Thompson, the son of former Gophers great Mychal Thompson, is the leading scorer in the Pacific-10 at 21.2 points per game and scored 28 points Saturday, including 24 in the second half. But Thompson was held out of the starting lineup after being late for the team bus.

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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