Timberwolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda held an in-depth conversation with David Kahn on the day he got fired as the team's president of basketball operations. Here is part one:
Q. What are your emotions, reactions? Did it catch you by surprise?
A. A little bit. I would say a mixture of disappointment, sadness and frankly a little bit of relief.
Q. Why relief?
A. I’ve been in a lot of hospital rooms the last 14 months. This has been an unbelievable challenge, the injuries we’ve had, starting with Ricky that night in March (2012), it just never stopped. And then when Rick’s wife took ill and he had to miss some time, you just never anticipate living your life this way where you’re constantly receiving bad news: Players missing time, coach missing time. It was just a really hard last 14 or so months.
Q. Did you meet Glen Taylor in person today?
A. No, spent some time with him on the phone today. We’ve been communicating back and forth the last several days.
Q. When did you get back from Europe?
A. Midday today.
Q. You were there just a few days, right?
A. That’s right. There was a player I needed to see because his season was ending. He was heavily recommended by some of the scouts and I had to go this week.
Q. Surprised that you went, that they let you go, with this forthcoming?
A. I just told somebody else, I think people have a misconception how organizations are run. Glen doesn’t operate in that kind of minutiae. I knew I had to see this player. Glen had told me in the past that this is business as usual. This is a trip I independently chose to take because it was an important trip for me to take. So I made the decision to leave and I made the decision it was the perfect day to come back today.
Q. You plan to meet with Glen in person?
A. We have a plan to meet in person, not a date set, but I’m sure we will shortly. He wants to and I want to.
Q. Has anything been decided with Rick yet?
A. Not to my knowledge, no. And I think it’s a little premature still. I think people are positioning it as a decision. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rick Adelman wants to come back, hopes to come back and we’re all optimistic he will come back. We’re all similarly hopeful that his wife does not have another medical emergency that would prevent him from doing so.
Q. It is a decision whether they can manage her health so he can still coach, right?
A. Right, right. And I think we’re all optimistic he can and will. I’m not him and I’m not her. That’s a family matter and I respect their privacy.
Q. I heard a couple of your radio interviews today. How well positioned do you think you leave this team?
A. Highly well positioned. I think it’s a team that’s a force to be reckoned with the next seven to 10 years. Very few teams, when you think about it, have the star power contained in Ricky and Kevin. Pekovic is becoming a significant player at his position in the league. You have Kirilenko, Shved, Barea, Budinger, there’s a lot and I’m leaving people out. There’s just a lot of talent on the roster and it’s mostly young talent, mid 20s and under. I think the team is very well positioned to make a serious run these next several years. The organization is better positioned than it was and the facilities are better. We made major strides and upgrades in almost every area of the franchise because frankly, when I arrived here, this was a very distressed situation.
Q. You said next 7 to 10 years. So you’re convinced that, unlike many Wolves fans, Kevin Love doesn’t bolt in 2015 because of that opt out clause?
A. I don’t believe any player makes his mind up until he has to make his mind up. There is nothing that would suggest to me that Kevin is irrational. I actually think he is very rational so he’ll make his decision over time based on the evidence. Any kind of hysteria surrounding what he may do is just far-fetched. If anybody put themselves in those shoes, you wait until you have to make a decision and then you make a decision. And there’s still a long time to be had before then.
Q. That’s two years down the road, right?
A. Yep, and maybe sooner if the team decides to offer an extension on the three-year anniversary.
Q. Did you handle the contract extension with him well?
A. We handled it the best way we can, and of course I handled it per instructions from the owner. Glen and I talked about it at length. I think it actually took me some time to tell Glen it was imperative he receive max money. The only issue, the only quibble came down to that last year and as I’ve said countless times, for us the danger was if you commit for five years, you’re really committed for six because of the lockout year, which he was playing. It’s an awfully long time to string a contract out with all the variables that can occur mostly due to injuries and oftentimes to big men. That was it. I think Kevin really had his heart set on a fifth year. I think his friendship with Russell Westbrook (who signed a five-year deal with OKC) made it difficult to accept, but that’s why I also prevailed upon Glen that we should relent and give him a third-year option so he felt like he was winning something too. In every compromise it’s important for both sides to walk away with something that was valuable to have. That’s what that was all about. I never had any problems offering that third year option. I thought it was the right thing to do.
Q. Think his feeling toward that or his feeling towards you influence Glen’s decision?
A. I doubt it. You’d have to ask Glen, but I doubt it. And my feelings toward Kevin, frankly, I really like him. And we’ve had some really productive conversation about the steps he needs to take to win back the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches. It’s almost ridiculous how much attention to paid to my relationship with him. In terms of import, it has no bearing at end of the day whether he’ll be happy here and whether organization will be happy with him. It’s much more important for him to forge really meaningful relationships with his teammates and coaches.
Q. But if he doesn’t have respect for the guy who runs the organization, that’s important isn’t it?
A. If you want to say it’s important, then you have to put it in context. If the person won’t let him have what he wants to have every time, you can make a counter-argument that that’s actually probably a healthy situation, too, that you don’t kind of cave to every desire. Much too much has been focused on me. Remember there’s an owner involved who ultimately has to say yeah or nay. That’s the final say. But no, I don’t think when Kevin makes his decision to stay here – and I hope and trust he will – that his relationship with a front-office person will be on his list of the top 20 things for him. I think his relationship with his teammates, his coaches, is the team winning, the city, the facilities, the outlook for the future, the money comparable to what he could get, there’s so many other things that will be much more important in that analysis. Otherwise, you’re suggesting he’s irrational and he’s not irrational.
Q. Why did you say he needs to win back the respect of his teammates?
A. I think there’s some work for him to be done in terms of, he didn’t play very much this year, right? And I think there’s a void there because of that. Many of those guys really fought their way back from injury, sometimes multiple injuries. He had two broken hands. He came back once, didn’t play well, broke his hand again and then decided to have his knee done at the end of the year when the pain was such. I think he has some work to in the locker room and I believe he will. I certainly don’t want that to come across negatively. I believe he will and I believe he’s on the right path.
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