Souhan: Kahn shows he lacks the ability to turn Wolves around

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2012 - 9:15 AM

David Kahn

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

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Long-suffering Timberwolves fans always wondered what it would take for Glen Taylor to fire Kevin McHale as general manager. The past three years should have dramatically changed their perspective.

Now those fans should be wondering what it will take for Taylor to fire David Kahn.

This week, Taylor said he planned to pick up the option on Kahn's contract, meaning the Wolves owner has stayed true to the core tenet of his sports management philosophy:

Abject failure is OK with him.

In his last three seasons on the job, the three seasons that moved Taylor to finally relieve him of his duties, McHale's winning percentage was .317.

In his first three seasons on the job, Kahn's winning percentage is .253. In three Aprils under Kahn, when an improving young team should be able to display its promise, the Wolves are 1-25.

McHale deserved his dismissal, and he was twice the GM that Kahn is.

The Wolves are 58-171 under Kahn. That's not all his fault. He inherited a lousy team and a lousy organization from McHale. An injury to Ricky Rubio this season destroyed the Wolves' chances of competing for a playoff spot.

Kahn and the Wolves might use Rubio's injury as an excuse for their collapse. What Rubio's injury actually did was reveal that just a few people were propping up one of the worst rosters in sports.

The Wolves were buoyed for the first half of the season by Rick Adelman's coaching, Rubio's arrival, Nikola Pekovic's improvement and Kevin Love's statistical dominance.

Kahn deserves credit for hiring Adelman. You can give Kahn credit for drafting Rubio, but that would be giving Kahn credit for the way he conducted the 2009 draft, during which he made one obvious choice (Rubio, projected to be drafted as high as No. 2, fell to Kahn at No. 5) and botched the others (taking Jonny Flynn at No. 6 and taking Ty Lawson, only to trade him).

In 2010, Kahn chose Wes Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins. Johnson is averaging 6.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists a game. Cousins is averaging 17.8, 10.9 and 1.6 with Sacramento. Kahn also declined to give Love the longest-possible contract, creating the possibility that the second-best player in franchise history could leave in three years.

Kahn has made good decisions, such as the hiring of Adelman and the drafting of Rubio and Derrick Williams. He has yet to make a good decision that could not have been made by the average fan.

Kahn has had three years to build a team. The best player on his roster is Love, who was acquired by McHale. His third-best player is Pekovic, who was acquired by McHale. With Love and Rubio sidelined, the Wolves have collapsed under the weight of Kahn's other, flighty, roster decisions, decisions that brought in Johnson, Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley.

What do those players have in common? They all look, to the undiscerning eye, like good basketball players, and they all play losing basketball. They are, in Kahn's vernacular, long and athletic. Kind of like Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

Kahn was given a team with a promising power forward and an undervalued center, in Love and Pekovic. In three years, he has added one quality player (Rubio) and one other promising draft pick (Williams).

These are Kahn's hand-picked players who have lost 12 of their past 13 games. Three years into his tenure, his roster has less depth than Jose Canseco's Twitter feed.

Of course, Taylor doesn't see it that way. Or perhaps the best way to edit that sentence is to say that when it comes to evaluating his general managers, Taylor doesn't see.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. •

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