Sid Hartman: Wild, Wolves could both change coaches

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2011 - 12:01 AM

Poor seasons in the standings and at the gate could mean the end for Todd Richards and Kurt Rambis.

At the Target Center in a game between the Timberwolves and the Mavericks, Kurt Rambis contemplates during the waning minutes of the game.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Dml - Star Tribune

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This has been a disastrous season from a win-loss standpoint for both the Wild and the Timberwolves.

It also has been a tough year financially for both franchises, with each team losing money because of a lack of ticket sales, sales of suites and corporate sales.

The Wolves could lose up to $20 million and are reported to have a big debt at one of the local banks. The Wild lost some money last year and will lose some more this year, but not as much as the Wolves.

Indications are that both coaches -- Kurt Rambis of the Wolves and Todd Richards of the Wild -- are in danger of losing their jobs.

Glen Taylor, owner of the Wolves, has refused to say that either President of Basketball Operations David Kahn or Rambis will be back next season, although each has one more year on his contract.

"We will talk about it after the season," Taylor said other day, giving no indication about the future of either one.

On March 20, when the Wolves lost 127-95 at Target Center to a Sacramento team that at the time had won fewer games than the Wolves, Taylor certainly talked as if there were going to be some changes. Earlier this season, Rob Moor, Taylor's son-in-law and the chief executive officer of the Wolves, had guaranteed that Kahn and Rambis would complete the third year of their contracts.

Taylor might not have to make a decision about Kahn and Rambis with an NBA work stoppage possible. He is chairman of the NBA Board of Governors and one of the chief negotiators with the labor unions.

Taylor admitted to me that some of his minority partners want to sell their shares in the Wolves because of the continued losing. However, Taylor said for them to get out they would have to find a replacement to take over.

Taylor is the most unique owner of a local sports team that I have known. He seems to love owning both the Wolves and the WNBA's Lynx, despite the losing by both franchises. He plans to work hard and continue his ownership because he is confident both teams eventually will become winners.

As for the Wild, even though the team remained in playoff contention for much of the season until finally getting eliminated Saturday, there's a better chance of Richards losing his job than Rambis. The team has failed to make the playoffs for three consecutive years. General Manager Chuck Fletcher said a decision on the status of Richards will be made at the end of the season.

Fletcher claims there is a poor free-agent group available this offseason, and even if that wasn't the case, the Wild is close to the salary cap and would have to trade some of its better players to strengthen the roster.

Both teams might have to make some serious changes if they are to have a good season in 2011-12, and unfortunately for the coaches, they are usually the victims of such changes.

No extension?

The current contract of Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi ends in June 2012.

When present University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks announced his retirement, which is coming at the end of the present school year, he did offer Maturi a two-year extension. Then for some reason, it was reduced to one.

Now the word is that under new President Eric Kaler, Maturi won't have any extension. A decision on Maturi's future will come when Kaler takes over.

It also could be Maturi's choice. Maturi has refused to say he has made any decision on his future.

It could be that Maturi, 66, has had enough grief on the job and feels as though it might soon be time to give it up.

Jottings

• The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission would have been in trouble had insurance not paid $22 million for the new Metrodome roof, since the commission had a balance of $11 million available in its banking account.

• Apparently, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is serious about doing something to remodel Target Center, with his plan to use some of the hospitality tax money that is paying for the Convention Center once the Convention Center is paid for. ... The word is that the Target Corp. still is interested in renewing the naming rights it has on Target Center that expires in September. Lifetime Fitness and Sanford Health of Sioux Falls, S.D., are candidates if Target doesn't renew.

• A record 1,200-plus state high school coaches attended the Minnesota Football Coaches Association's annual clinic this weekend in St. Louis Park, with new Gophers coach Jerry Kill wowing them with his long dissertation on winning football. ... Ed Lochrie, the very capable Gophers football trainer, turned down a lucrative offer from Notre Dame to stay with Kill.

• As it turns out, it looks as though the Twins were fortunate they didn't sign two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to a big contract extension. This is even though they didn't get much for him in the trade with the Mets -- only minor league pitcher Deolis Guerra remains from the original trade. Santana, healthy throughout his Twins career, saw last season cut short by shoulder trouble and had surgery in September. He recently told the New York Daily News that it is "too soon" to project when he will be able to return to this season, although the Mets' original hope was for sometime in July.

• Former Cretin-Derham Hall and Gophers athlete Jack Hannahan is off to a great start in his first year with the Cleveland Indians after spending 2010 with the Boston Red Sox's Class AAA Pawtucket club. He is 4-for-9 in his first two games with a home run and three RBI. The Indians are Hannahan's fourth major league team. ... Former Twins catcher Wilson Ramos went 3-for-4 Saturday in his first start of the season for the Washington Nationals. Ramos, traded for Matt Capps last year, batted .340 with a homer and two RBI in 19 spring training games and likely will share catching duties with veteran Ivan Rodriguez this season.

• Ex-Gophers defenseman Sam Lofquist has two goals and three assists in three playoff games and finished the regular season with eight goals and 28 assists in 62 games for Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League.

• Outfielder Joe Loftus, a former Holy Angels standout who was drafted by the Twins out of high school but did not sign, is batting .174 (4-for-23) with five RBI in 17 games for Vanderbilt, which is ranked No. 2 in this week's Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll.

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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