Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
David Kahn's contract has not been renewed and the Wolves will replace him with, as expected, former Wolves coach Flip Saunders as president of basketball operations, team and league sources said this afternoon.
The team officially announced Kahn will not be back, but hasn't yet announced Saunders' hiring.
An introductory press conference likely will come Friday.
In the release announcing Kahn's contract option will not be picked up, team owner Glen Taylor said,
"We want to thank David for all of his efforts the past four years with our basketball team. These are always difficult decisions, but at this time, we believe it is in the best interest of our organization to make a change. We wish David all the best in the future."
No official word yet on coach Rick Adelman's future, although it's expected he will return next season.
Kahn was hired in May 2009 to replace Kevin McHale as the team's top basketball decision maker. In those four years, he drafted and brought to Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio and pursued Adelman for months before the team signed him in September 2011. His time here also included failed lottery picks Jonny Flynn (6th overall in 2009), Wes Johnson (4th overall in 2010) as well as failed experiments with such young players he acquired as Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph and Martell Webster.
Saunders coached the Wolves for nearly 10 seasons, from 1995 to 2005, before being fired midway through the 2004-05 season.
He also coached Detroit and Washington, most recently with the Wizards in 2012 and has been doing commentary work for ESPN this season.
Saunders, by the way, was the last -- and only -- Wolves coach to lead the team to the playoffs, back in that 2004 playoff run that lead to the Western Conference playoffs.
Kahn was hired after the team interviewed other candidates -- San Antonio exec Dennis Lindsey (now Utah's GM), former NBA coach/exec Randy Pfund, Portland assistant GM Tom Penn -- to replace McHale, who had finished the 2008-09 season as the team's coach after he had fired Randy Wittman.
Kahn deliberated for a month before deciding not to bring McHale back as coach. He traded Mike Miller and Randy Foye to Washington for the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, then used that pick to draft Ricky Rubio and the Wolves' own sixth overall pick to take point guard Flynn.
Six weeks later, he hired Kurt Rambis to coach the team with a system that did not emphasize the point-guard position.
Kahn fired Rambis after two seasons and patiently pursued Adelman for at least three months before getting him to agree to coach the team.
David Kahn just sent me a text after I called him seeking comment on today's NBA.com report that Glen Taylor is negotiating a five-year deal with Flip Saunders to replace Kahn as president of basketball operations.
This is what the text said:
"First, I wake up every day knowing it's a privilege to have this job, and not a right. Speculation about our jobs is part of this business, especially when you strip the emotion out of it. Speculation is especially understandable now, as we have a deep and talented team, with several cornerstone players, and will be poised for big success once it regains its health.
"Glen and I have an understanding that we will meet at an appropriate time to discuss my contractual status, but only after we have clarification on Coach Adelman's status and Glen has all the information he needs. It is no different than when we make decisions on players who have options. We wait for the process to unfold. In the meantime, Glen and I have been having conversations about the staff, free agency and other plans.
We had three players, including Ricky Rubio, begin their offseason conditioning and basketball drills in Minneapolis last week, two days after the season ended. That kind of hard work and dedication is why we'll be a special team."
NBA.com's Steve Aschburner is reporting this morning that Glen Taylor has decided to replace David Kahn with Flip Saunders as Timberwolves president of basketball operations.
It follows speculation that has been out there for more than a month, or all the way back to last summer when there was talk in the league winds that Flip was part of a group pursuing buying the team from Taylor with the expectation that Saunders would run the basketball ops.
Still working to confirm it -- nobody in the Wolves organization seems to know the decision has been made -- but given Asch's history with Flip, Taylor and the Wolves for more than a decade as the Strib's beat writer and given NBA.com's obvious ties to the league, no reason to believe it's not true.
Especially when such specifics as a five-year, $9 million contract are mentioned.
Saunders was asked about it on ESPN's SportsCenter -- he's been doing NBA commentary work for the network this winter and into the playoffs -- this afternoon, after a network spokesman said Saunders called the report "premature."
Saunders said he has had a "great" relationship with Taylor for the last 20 years.
"Right now, what develops, we'll have to wait and see," he said. "But right now there's nothing developing down the road."
When -- or if -- it officially happens, two questions to be answered:
* Does this mean there's an answer, too, on Rick Adelman's future?
* Does it mean Saunders indeed is part of a group that will buy the team?
On the first part...
I wouldn't conclude it absolutely means Adelman has decided he won't be back.
The June draft is fast approaching and the Wolves have two first-round picks, so if Taylor is going to make a move, there's no time to dawdle getting a new regime in place.
I'm sure Taylor has had discussions with both Saunders and Adelman about whether, or how, the two would work together.
On the second part...unless something has changed in the last two weeks, I don't have indication that's in the works. Taylor said before the season ended that he hasn't found a suitable buyer that will keep the team in Minnesota, so he planned to continue owning the team but would look for new partners to replace those exsiting ones who want out.
The NBA get its after-season draft bookkeeping today, conducting blind draws for teams that finished with identical records.
Memphis lost a draw with the L.A. Clippers to see who'd get the Nos. 25 and 26 picks in the June 27 draft, which meant the Wolves, of course, lost that blind draw.
They'll get the Grizzlies' No. 26 pick in the draft.
They're also currently slotted to draft ninth overall, depending on the results of the May 21 lottery.
They have a 1.7 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall and could also pick second or third if they defy the odds and get one of the first three picks in the lottery.
Or they could very well could draft 10th -- or 11th or 12th, too, if you think they're really, really lottery cursed -- as well.
If they stay at No. 9, here's a list of picks at that spot since the Wolves entered the league in 1989: Tom Hammonds, Willie Burton, Stacey Augmon, Clarence Witherspoon, Rodney Rogers, Eric Montross, Ed OBannon, Samaki Walker, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Joel Przybilla, Rodney White, Amare, Mike Sweetney, Andre Iguodala, Ike Diogu, Patrick O'Bryant, Joakim Noah, D.J. Augustin, DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker and Andre Drummond.
The Wolves also own two second-round picks: the 52nd (Brooklyn's selection via New Orleans) and 59th (Oklahoma City's selection.)
Nikola Pekovic was scratched from tonight's game at Utah because of a calf contusion and was replaced in the starting lineup by backup Greg Stiemsma.
Dante Cunningham warmed up before tonight's game and said he's ready to play after missing Wednesday's game against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
That will keep Rick Adelman from playing Derrick Williams 36 straight minutes as he did in L.A. until sitting Williams and three other starters for the entire fourth quarter because the game was a blowout.
The Jazz have three games left -- two of them against the Wolves, including Monday at Target Center -- and are chasing the Lakers for the West's eighth and final playoff from a game behind.
The Lakers play their final three games all at home.
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