Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
Arrived in Chicago not too long ago for the NBA's annual draft combine these next two days.
Danny Ainge and Mitch Kupchak are here. So are Mike D'Antoni, Ty Corbin, Rick Carlisle, even unemployed/retired coach Jerry Sloan.
And, of course, Flip Saunders is here, too.
It's part player workouts/interviews, part job fair for the former NBA head coach now turned Wolves basketball boss.
Flip is leading a seven-person Wolves front-office party here in Chicago.
Player personnel guy R.J. Adelman is here, but his dad Rick is not.
He's earned the right not to be here, I guess, after 30 years in the league.
About 60 draft prospects are here for drills, exams and interviews with teams.
Expect the Wolves to focus on shooting guards and centers -- their two biggest areas of need -- in this draft process.
Of the players in early to talk to the media today, UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad and Ohio State small forward Deshaun Thomas say they interviewed with the Wolves last night.
Players with local connections here are former Gophers forward Trevor Mwabke, former Gopher Colton Iverson, Bucknell center (by way of Roseville) Mike Muscala and South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters.
No surprise except at maybe the timing, but...
The Wolves today announced they have waived the three-time All Star guard, ending their brief and failed experiment with him after just five games played last season.
Incoming president of basketball operations Flip Saunders wiped away the whole glorious BRoy era -- waiving the former superstar with bad knees while also clearing buddies Will Conroy and Steve Gordon from the scouting payroll -- in his first full week on the job this week after he replaced David Kahn last week.
Why waive him now rather than keep his contract -- which has one more non-guaranteed year at $5 million plus -- on the books in case they can use it in a bigger trade?
Obviously, Flip concluded that it had little or no value.
The Wolves signed Roy last summer to a two-year, $10 million-plus deal after they "won" the free-agent sweepstakes for him.
He also had discussions with such teams as Dallas, Chicago, Golden State and Indiana, but signed with the Wolves after Kahn, owner Glen Taylor, coach Rick Adelman and the team's athletic trainer flew to Seattle to woo him. They also later brought pal Conroy to training camp and kept him on the team early in the season before waiving him and bringing him back in a special-assignment scouting position.
Roy, 28, stayed healthy through training camp, but played just those five games early in the season before needing yet another knee procedure and never played again, even though he kept saying he intended to return to action.
They say the new guy always wants to bring in his own guys...
Well, Flip Saunders started to do that today.
He fired five scouts -- international scouting director/player personnel Pete Philo, regional scouts J.T. Prada, Curtis Crawford and Steve Gordon as well as special-assignment scout Will Conroy -- today in his first full week on the job as president of basketball operations.
All four either had contracts expiring thissummer and were working without contracts.
It looks like scouts with years remaining on their contracts -- Milt Barnes, Derek Pierce -- will remain.
How Flip re-makes that front office with just seven weeks left before a draft in which the Wolves will have two first-round picks and two second-rounders, well, we'll see.
The general manager's job is open as now is most of the scouting staff.
Flip said at his introductory press conference last week that he intends to re-work the scouting system, going away from the regional-scouting system that predecessor David Kahn set up.
Philo had been with the team the longest -- eight seasons -- and his knowledge in international scouting helped reshape the Wolves roster into one that's now filled with players and prospects from Europe and South America.
He ran the annual pre-draft EuroCamp for years -- and he had a young player named Alexey Shved there for three straight years.
The Wolves, of course, last summer signed Shved to a three-year contract..
He also was instrumental in wooing Ricky Rubio to sign with the Wolves after the team drafted him in June 2009 and influenced decisions to draft European players Nemanja Bjelica and Henk Norel as well as international prospects Paolo Prestes and Tanguy Ngombo.
Philo called himself a "little bit shook up" by the brief call from Saunders informing him today and said "what hurts most" is all the "great" seasons that wait ahead for a team he and fired president of basketball operations David Kakn helped assemble.
He said he is "very, very thankful" to the organization for the opportunity.
"It hurts to go through all those years, painful seasons, knowing we had a plan and things started to shape up,'" he said. "I'm very proud to be part of that. It was a lot of hard work and now not to be part of it..."
Flip, btw, spent much of today in meetings here with coach Rick Adelman when he wasn't on the phone firing guys today.
The Timberwolves will introduce new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders at a 10:30 a.m. news conference at Target Center.
Or should I say re-introduce the former Wolves coach?
But before we get to that...
I had a long conversation with outgoing GM David Kahn yesterday after he was told his contract isn't being renewed. I give him credit for making the media rounds on radio with KFAN and ESPN 1500 and with a print guy.
You can read the chat in its four-part entirety -- dont worry, it's a fairly quick read -- by following this link.
Think of it as our very own exit interview with the guy.
David Kahn's contract has not been renewed and the Wolves will replace him with, as expected, former Wolves coach Flip Saunders as president of basketball operations, team and league sources said this afternoon.
The team officially announced Kahn will not be back, but hasn't yet announced Saunders' hiring.
An introductory press conference likely will come Friday.
In the release announcing Kahn's contract option will not be picked up, team owner Glen Taylor said,
"We want to thank David for all of his efforts the past four years with our basketball team. These are always difficult decisions, but at this time, we believe it is in the best interest of our organization to make a change. We wish David all the best in the future."
No official word yet on coach Rick Adelman's future, although it's expected he will return next season.
Kahn was hired in May 2009 to replace Kevin McHale as the team's top basketball decision maker. In those four years, he drafted and brought to Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio and pursued Adelman for months before the team signed him in September 2011. His time here also included failed lottery picks Jonny Flynn (6th overall in 2009), Wes Johnson (4th overall in 2010) as well as failed experiments with such young players he acquired as Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph and Martell Webster.
Saunders coached the Wolves for nearly 10 seasons, from 1995 to 2005, before being fired midway through the 2004-05 season.
He also coached Detroit and Washington, most recently with the Wizards in 2012 and has been doing commentary work for ESPN this season.
Saunders, by the way, was the last -- and only -- Wolves coach to lead the team to the playoffs, back in that 2004 playoff run that lead to the Western Conference playoffs.
Kahn was hired after the team interviewed other candidates -- San Antonio exec Dennis Lindsey (now Utah's GM), former NBA coach/exec Randy Pfund, Portland assistant GM Tom Penn -- to replace McHale, who had finished the 2008-09 season as the team's coach after he had fired Randy Wittman.
Kahn deliberated for a month before deciding not to bring McHale back as coach. He traded Mike Miller and Randy Foye to Washington for the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, then used that pick to draft Ricky Rubio and the Wolves' own sixth overall pick to take point guard Flynn.
Six weeks later, he hired Kurt Rambis to coach the team with a system that did not emphasize the point-guard position.
Kahn fired Rambis after two seasons and patiently pursued Adelman for at least three months before getting him to agree to coach the team.
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