Hartman: Will Saunders be next Wolves GM?

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2013 - 12:15 AM

Former Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders talked with ESPN commentator Dan Dakich during halftime of the Gophers game against Indiana.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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There are several indications pointing to the likelihood of former Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders replacing David Kahn as president of basketball operations for the team before the 2013-14 season.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor wasn't available for comment on the subject Saturday, but he hasn't kept it a secret that Saunders has served as a consultant for him on the basketball team during this season.

It was interesting to see Taylor's quote in Thursday's Star Tribune about his contact with Saunders. Taylor said: "He's pretty well aware of what is happening with the Timberwolves."

And then some time ago Taylor talked about how he was in contact with Saunders for information on how to handle the many injuries the Wolves have suffered this season.

And the word is that Saunders made a trip to Mankato to talk basketball with Taylor.

Unless Saunders is offered a coaching job that would pay him a lot more money than he would get being the Wolves' president of basketball operations, I think it's a strong possibility that Saunders will replace Kahn before next season.

Taylor mentioned some time ago that he considers Saunders a better judge of personnel than he is a coach. And the personnel situation with the Wolves the past two years has been a disaster.

Then there is the coaching situation with Rick Adelman, who is in the second year of a five-year contract calling for a reported $6 million a year.

Informed sources say that Adelman almost resigned this season when his wife became seriously ill. He missed a number of practices and games to be with his wife as she recovered and had her illness diagnosed.

If Adelman's wife continues having trouble with seizures, I don't believe it is a certainty that he will continue to coach, despite the high salary.

So I wouldn't be surprised to see a real shakeup in the Wolves organization if they don't have a very strong finish. That could include Saunders coaching as well as being general manager if Adelman leaves. Saunders would hire a top personnel executive to help him if he decided to coach.

Season-ticket renewals for the 2013-14 season are going to be a tough sell if a lot of changes aren't made.

Mbakwe in condition

A big reason Trevor Mbakwe has been on fire the past two games -- with 21 points and 12 rebounds against Indiana and another double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds in Saturday's 73-44 victory over Penn State -- is that following knee surgery it took the 6-8 forward time to get in real playing shape. And in the past two games, he has shown that he has reached peak shape.

Indiana coach Tom Crean sang the praises of Mbakwe after the Hoosiers' loss, and Penn State coach Pat Chambers on Saturday echoed the notion that Mbakwe is playing at a very high level.

Chambers, whose Penn State team upset Michigan last week and then lost here by 29 points, its largest Big Ten margin of defeat this season, added: "I was just saying it was a perfect storm: senior night [for the Gophers], coming off a great win, coming off the high of highs in upsetting a top-five team, that's what you saw."

Said Mbakwe, who was averaging 9.9 points and 8.6 rebounds coming into Saturday's game: "I'm trying to be more aggressive lately. I'm going to go out playing the best that I can. These last two games I've been a lot more aggressive, and I've been rebounding the ball a lot better. I want to continue that for the rest of the season.

"I think I've had some good rebounding games, but we went through a tough stretch. I wasn't rebounding the best that I could, but I picked it up the last two games and hopefully I'll be able to continue with this momentum."

About the future, starting with the regular-season-closing games -- at Nebraska on Wednesday and at Purdue on Saturday -- Mbakwe said that this team has unlimited potential.

"We can go real far. Final Four or bust," he said. "They're going to be big games [against Nebraska and Purdue]. We don't want to overlook those teams. That's going to be their senior nights, too, and they're going to want to end their season the right way, too.

"We have to go in and know it's going to be a tough game. We're going to have to play pretty good to win at those places."

Heating system will be key

Twins President Dave St. Peter says the team will put its state-of-the-art heating system to use this year, to melt the snow that accumulated at Target Field over the winter and have the field ready for the April 1 opener.

"It's a pretty elaborate system," St. Peter said. "It's the exact same system that they have below the Lambeau Field playing surface in Green Bay."

The cost of buying and installing the million-dollar-plus system was worth the investment, considering the 15 home games the team will play in April.


• Last season's Vikings turnstile count at the Metrodome was 541,728, or 10,576 less than in 2011. Ticket sales were 566,889, down 22,588. Ticket revenue fell from $47.3 million to $46.1 million. The Vikings' share of concessions sales was down $94,771.

• Chaska native Ross Travis, who scored 15 points and added 12 rebounds in Penn State's victory over Michigan, had eight points and three rebounds against the Gophers, reacted to the loss Saturday: "We just didn't come mentally prepared for this game. ... Definitely, we came out with the right mindset against Michigan, came out and played Penn State basketball, hard and played together as a team, and we didn't do that tonight."

• Unfortunately from a recruiting standpoint, Apple Valley's Tyus Jones, who has attended most of the Gopher games, wasn't present to see the big rush to the floor when the Gophers beat No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday. Jones, the nation's top-rated junior, was playing a game, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was on hand to see him score 26 points in a victory over Prior Lake.

• Look for an announcement in the next two weeks that the city of Minneapolis, the Timberwolves, Lynx, AEG and LifeTime Fitness have come to an agreement on a $100 million package for remodeling Target Center. Minneapolis will pay for $50 million of the improvements, while the other partners will split the remaining $50 million.

• The Buffalo Bills, happy with what they saw from Tarvaris Jackson last season, have signed the former Vikings quarterback to a two-year contract.

• Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Viking Carl Eller will be honored by Allstate Insurance and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C.

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    • Last season's Vikings turnstile count at the Metrodome was 541,728, or 10,576 less than in 2011. Ticket sales were 566,889, down 22,588. Ticket revenue fell from $47.3 million to...

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