Good chance names on Kahn's list include Barnum and Bailey

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2011 - 6:17 AM
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David Kahn, general manager of the Timberwolves, spoke about the firing of coach Kurt Rambis and the future of the team during a news conference at Target Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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If you parse his grandiloquent language and stare into his eyes as he explains his basketball vision, what you discover is that David Kahn doesn't know what he's talking about.

The emperor has no clues.

Kahn, the Wolves' basketball boss, belatedly fired Kurt Rambis as the Timberwolves coach on Wednesday.

Then Kahn said his search for Rambis' replacement will be "wide but not voluminous.'' That is gibberish.

He said he wants his next coach to encourage an "up-tempo'' style of play. That is silly, because last year Rambis' Timberwolves ranked first in the NBA in pace of play, according to ESPN's John Hollinger, and demonstrated what happens when a poor team plays fast. It loses 65 games.

Kahn let Rambis dangle for months when everyone in the NBA knew Rambis effectively had been fired, then pretended that the elapsed time was due to diligent thinking. That is reprehensible, leaving someone in limbo for so long.

Kahn admitted that he has contacted Bernie Bickerstaff on the day that Bickerstaff's son, longtime Wolves assistant coach J.B., was revealed to be leaving the organization to work with Kevin McHale in Houston. That is embarrassing.

All of which leaves us asking the same question about Target Center as we do about those little cars at the circus: How do they fit so many clowns in there?

Those few Timberwolves fans still defending Kahn have to recognize that the man is making it up as he goes along. It's not that all the moves he has made are bad; it's that his decisions display no more insight or basketball knowledge than the average fan on the street possesses. In fact, the average fan probably wouldn't have let Rambis dangle, and probably wouldn't have chosen a short point guard with his or her first draft choice.

The first decision Kahn made as Wolves boss was to draft Ricky Rubio, a point guard who could not be counted on to play in the United States. Rubio could still turn out to be a steal, but drafting him and finding that he would spend two years in Europe does not display a great amount of foresight.

Then Kahn drafted Jonny Flynn, and he predicted that not only could Flynn play alongside another point guard but that he could become an excellent defender. The average fan would have recognized that an undersized guard who played zone in college could do neither.

Then Kahn hired Rambis, while celebrating the arrival of Rambis' triangle offense, even though Flynn had no chance of performing well in that system.

It is clear now that Kahn hired Rambis and assistants Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus not because Kahn recognized them as gifted coaches but because he had heard of them.

Kahn continues to pat himself on the back for upgrading the talent on the Wolves' roster. He also traded his best player at the time, Al Jefferson, for Kosta Koufos, a draft pick that Kahn traded for money, and a lottery-protected first-round pick from Utah next year. The average fan probably would have explored playing Jefferson and Kevin Love together.

It is probably unfair to compare Kahn to an average fan. The average fan knows that NBA teams don't win by emphasizing "up-tempo'' offenses. They win with defense, rebounding, half-court execution and intelligent play. Fast-break baskets are the result, not the cause, of well-played basketball.

Kahn's next decision will determine his fate and the immediate future of the franchise. If he can hire a coach such as Rick Adelman, and Adelman can take over the decision-making role in the organization, the Wolves could be saved.

Adelman would bring credibility and creativity with him; he would promise to get the most out of Love, recent No. 1 draft pick Derrick Williams and Rubio.If Kahn tries to hire a coach he can control, a coach upon whom he can foist the idea of "up-tempo play,'' the Wolves will win about the same number of games this winter whether their players are locked out or not.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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