In a performance worthy of an ovation, the Wolves boss talked of fine-tuning and of optimism.
There was a news conference at Target Center late Wednesday morning in which David Kahn promised to summarize his second season in charge of the Timberwolves' on-court product.
Kahn offered a preamble and then answered questions for 40 minutes. When he was finished, the room full of reporters failed in our duty. We should have risen as one to give the man a standing ovation.
The Wolves were 10 1/2 hours from completing the worst two-season stretch in the history of a franchise with some impressively poor two-season stretches. And yet Kahn peered through the carnage and said:
"I think the feeling around the league -- putting aside the customer base, the fan base -- is that this is a team on the come."
That's a very interesting concept, when you consider that the Wolves started their existence by firing coach Bill Musselman for winning too much in the first two seasons. They then spent the next two seasons dedicated to attaining the best draft choices, posting records of 15-67 in 1991-92 and 19-63 in 1992-93.
The combined 34 victories proved too high of a mountain to climb for Kahn's troops -- 15-67 in 2009-10 and 17-65 after Wednesday night's 2010-11 finale.
Kahn was hired on May 22, 2009. Only Kevin Love remains from the group he inherited, unless you want to count Sebastian Telfair, who was here in April 2009, was traded, came back and now will be leaving again.
Asked about two years of constant change with personnel, Kahn said:
"We're done turning over. ... We no doubt have a lot of fine-tuning to do this summer, but I don't want to mistake fine-tuning with an overhaul. We're done with that. There are a lot of players on this roster that all of us really likes, and the community likes, and I think they are the kinds of players that will be here for many, many years to come."
For some reason, Kahn's fine-tuning remarks got me thinking about my first car -- a 1954 Chevy that I bought from my Aunt Peggy for $100. The Chevy went through a few mishaps and yet the blue bomber kept working.
Finally came a day when it was fired up and a blade came off the fan. It sliced through the hood and went skyward as if it was a Vanguard 1 satellite.
And my reaction was: "Aunt Peggy's Chevy needs a significant tuneup."
Now, all these years later, David Kahn sees a product with dents and tears and missing pieces, and he says in many, many words: "We're not quite perfect yet; we could use a tuneup."
It was clear Wednesday that a major element of the tuneup will be the departure of coach Kurt Rambis. You don't run into this often: news conferences where a coach finds out that he's going to be fired without the words actually being spoken.
Kahn: "I certainly have some ideas, some thoughts and some notions. ... I also feel more determined than ever, this won't happen again. We cannot let this happen again. The status quo is not acceptable. It's just not."
Rambis: Strike one on the outside corner.
Kahn: "... I felt the team was improving dramatically individually. And then for whatever reason, tracing back to the week before the All-Star break and the week after, it just stopped. And I don't know why."
Rambis: Strike two on the inside corner.
Kahn: "... This is a very different team than a year ago, but this is two years in a row where, for whatever reason, the team didn't improve as the season wore on. I think you can make a fair argument that a young team probably should show even more team improvement as the season winds down than an older team."
Rambis: Strike three, right down the gut.
And yet after this litany of failings, Kahn came with a punch line worthy of Bill Maher's "New Rules" when he said:
"I don't think this should disturb any of the optimism and the good feelings that at least I have and I hope a lot of people here share, maybe not in this room but in the community, that this team is headed in the right direction."
Come on, Glen Taylor. Let's pony up immediately for a Kahn extension. The guy is a hoot.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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