Hartman: Wolves owner Taylor rights two wrongs by bringing back Saunders

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2013 - 6:41 AM

Glen Taylor made a mistake eight years ago by firing Flip Saunders, and another by hiring David Kahn as GM.

Glen Taylor didn’t become a billionaire by making a lot of mistakes in business. The Timberwolves owner has been successful in most every venture he has touched.

But he made one bad move when it comes to the basketball team he owns when he fired Flip Saunders as coach on Feb. 12, 2005, after the team had gone to the Western Conference finals the previous season.

Now after making another mistake in hiring David Kahn as general manager and president of basketball operations, Taylor is looking to rectify both errors by bringing Saunders back in place of Kahn.

The move isn’t a surprise because Taylor has admitted that he has been in contact with Saunders during the season looking for ways to make the franchise successful. The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs since Saunders’ firing.

Taylor is ready to make amends for that mistake in firing Saunders and is bringing him back as GM.

There also is a possibility that Saunders might be able to put a group together to buy the team, something he has been working on. Taylor always has had respect for Saunders’ ability to judge talent, and in a recent conversation Taylor talked about how he ranks Saunders as one of the best in the business at doing that.

The Wolves had got off to a bad start in the 2004-05 season, and one of the reasons for that was contract problems with Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, two players who had been big reasons for their success the prior year.

I got the news of Saunders’ firing on the radio while on a bus on my way home from Ames, Iowa, after a basketball game between Iowa State and Bob Knight’s Texas Tech team. Everybody in the bus, which was chartered by local sportsman Marty Davis, could not believe it.

The word was that Taylor was informed that Kevin Garnett had said Saunders had lost control of the team, and for that reason Saunders was dismissed and Kevin McHale took over as coach.

Saunders had taken the Wolves to the playoffs eight times in nine seasons, and all of a sudden he had lost control of the team? It made no sense, and Saunders promptly showed he was still a coach in demand when the Pistons hired him as coach that summer.

There was another surprise firing by the Pistons after the 2007-08 season, despite taking that team to the Eastern Conference finals, where Detroit lost to the Celtics.

His next job was rebuilding a terrible Wizards squad, and he lasted three years with Washington before being fired in January 2012.

Yes, Taylor got a big break when Saunders didn’t land the Gophers coaching job.

With Saunders on board, the Wolves once again will be a playoff contender like they were during his coaching tenure.

College teammates

Since Rick Spielman became the Vikings general manager in 2012, one of the constants of their two drafts under him has been the selection of college teammates in the same draft — often even selecting teammates who have played in the same offensive or defensive unit.

Last year, the Vikings selected Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick in the first round and then took his Southern California teammate and blocking partner Rhett Ellison in the fourth round. In that round, they also selected Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, both wide receivers from Arkansas. They also selected safety Harrison Smith in the first round and cornerback Robert Blanton in the fifth, both defensive backs out of Notre Dame.

That trend continued this year. The Vikings selected two linebackers out of Penn State, Gerald Hodges in the fourth round and Michael Mauti in the seventh.

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