Souhan: Brilliant hire, if Wolves don't mess it up

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2011 - 6:43 AM

Hiring the veteran coach is the best move the Wolves have made in a long time.

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Rick Adelman

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The Timberwolves, faced with one of the most important decisions in franchise history at one of the most crucial junctures in franchise history, hired the best head coaching candidate on the market.

Think about that. If you're a frustrated Wolves fan, please savor it as well. We don't get to enjoy moments like this very often.

Given a cast of candidates that, on its lower rungs, resembled the geekiest misfits on "Glee," your Wolves -- the gang that often can't shoot or think straight -- wound up drawing all the right conclusions.

They correctly identified the estimable Rick Adelman as the best coach available. They wisely paid him a ridiculous sum of money, having realized that cutting costs on key hires only damages franchise value and the season-ticket base, eventually costing owner Glen Taylor even more.

They interviewed the right secondary candidates, including former Wolves forward Sam Mitchell and all-time NBA victories leader Don Nelson.

Give Taylor and David Kahn, that embattled basketball duo, credit for running a professional search and drawing the right conclusion.

Adelman immediately will improve the basketball team. He immediately will restore a measure of the Wolves' credibility in Minnesota's dormant basketball fan base and in the NBA at large. He will make the process of rebuilding an NBA team more interesting and more fruitful.

This is the most impressive moment of Kahn's brief history as a basketball boss. So many of his other decisions smacked of desperation and naiveté.

He hired Kurt Rambis because of his image as a Lakers champion and his proximity to Phil Jackson on the Lakers bench, not because Rambis had ever demonstrated coaching chops.

He brought in, by his phraseology, "long and athletic" players who don't know how to win, such as Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, hoping to catch lightning in a long and athletic bottle.

He brought in foreign scout Tony Ronzone, who wound up, according to my sources, leaving the organization because of internal disputes. He drafted Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio because they were spectacular at lower levels of basketball, not because they could rationally be projected to become NBA stars.

He brought in players such as Darko Milicic, because if such a long shot ever cashed in, Kahn could take the credit.

Even his best draft choice, Derrick Williams, was the result of a choice anyone with a TV and an Internet connection could have made.

Adelman is an adept enough coach to make Kahn's players look better than they ever have before. He is the rare coach capable of fulfilling Kahn's mandate of playing running basketball without sacrificing intelligent or responsible play.

Of course, these are the Wolves, so there are layers of drama attached to even the most rational moves. Adelman was thought to be seeking a five-year contract worth about $25 million. Kahn has one year worth about $1 million remaining on his deal.

If Kahn can't talk Taylor into a contract extension, Adelman immediately will become the most powerful man other than Taylor in the organization. That could provide high entertainment, if Kahn and Adelman ever fight for power.

Adelman is not perfect; nor is the situation into which he steps. He's a 65-year-old man who was forced out of his last job and is taking over an historically inept operation. Better plans than this have failed.

His hiring, though, offers real promise. Adelman should extract the most out of Kevin Love and Williams. He should be able to immediately double the Wolves' victory total. And if he can teach Ricky Rubio to make the occasional basket, he is destined for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Given the woeful state of Minnesota professional sports at the moment, it's not hard to see Adelman and the frisky young Wolves becoming the hot ticket in town whenever the NBA lockout ends.

This organization has employed a few of the worst NBA head coaches in basketball history, including Jimmy Rodgers, Bill Blair, Randy Wittman and Rambis. Into the breach steps Adelman, who, in a year or two, might be earning faint praise as the best coach in franchise history.

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

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