If Kevin McHale wants to continue to coach the Timberwolves next season, at a salary about three times the $1 million he was being paid this season as vice president for basketball operations, it is perfectly all right with team owner Glen Taylor.

Taylor said Saturday he already has given McHale a raise to coach the team, an amount he wouldn't reveal. But whether he continues to coach next season is up to McHale, who hasn't ruled it out.

McHale lost his first eight games as coach after replacing Randy Wittman last month, but the Wolves improved to 8-2 in January by beating New Orleans 116-108 on Friday. Taylor said he expected this type of performance at the start of the season.

"We thought these guys could play competitively against most teams," Taylor said. "For some reason or another, it has just taken longer to get this going than we anticipated. It might have something to do with Kevin's coaching. But, just a lot of good things are happening right now."

Taylor said he had not pressed McHale about coaching in the future.

"The way Kevin and I have always done things, we have waited until the end of the year and then we've talked," Taylor said. "I just think that's the best for me to do with him, just to see how this year goes, to see if this is something that he wants to do full-time in the future, and talk to him at the end of the year.

"I think that a big part of it will be how he enjoys the experience and how well it goes."

Taylor says the club will lose a lot of money if the recent winning doesn't pick up the attendance. Target Center drew a good-sized crowd Friday, with an announced 18,224 watching the victory over one of the Western Conference's better teams.

Despite the fact the club has been losing money and not doing that well on the floor, Taylor hasn't lost his enthusiasm for owning the Timberwolves, and he made an emphatic statement that the club is not for sale.

And even though the Lynx continue to lose and also lose money, he will continue to operate them, too.

Mauer on schedule

It was reported here in Friday's column that as a result of Joe Mauer's Dec. 22 kidney operation, the Twins catcher hadn't yet been able to do any serious conditioning drills in preparation for the season. Mauer had physicals at Mayo Clinic on Thursday and with Twins physician Dr. John Steubs on Saturday.

"I just had my physical with our team doctors, and I'm on schedule," Mauer said Saturday. "I'm healing, and I'm probably where I should be at right now. It will be a little bit more time. I'm starting to move around a little bit; they told me I could start doing some light stuff and work my way into it.

"I'm going to get through this weekend here first and then get down to Florida on Monday and get down there and start working out. And I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing, but I'm starting to work my way back onto the field. ... We're just going to try to take it as slow as we can and make sure I'm right, but I really don't have a [set] day to begin that."

One positive to come from this is that Mauer said the discovery of the kidney problem has solved his perennial back problems. "It's helped me a lot. I'm moving around better, I feel better. I'm still recovering, but I can definitely see the difference."

Mauer said the back gave him some trouble "probably the last couple weeks of the [2008] season and then into the offseason. But we got it figured out, and I'm feeling a lot better now."

So there remains a question as to how much spring training Mauer will be able to take part in, and if for sure he will be ready to play when the season opens.


It was kind of sad not seeing late Twins owner Carl Pohlad riding around in his wheelchair Saturday at TwinsFest, with a line of people visiting him and getting his autograph.

A year ago at the All-Star break, the Wild was 28-19-3 for 59 points and leading the Northwest Division and third in the Western Conference. Today, the team is 23-20-3 for 49 points, fourth in the Northwest Division and ninth in the conference. ... The first half of last season for Mikko Koivu was ruined by a broken leg, suffered when he was struck by the swinging stick of Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund. That injury caused the Wild center to miss 24 games, and he had only 20 points at the All-Star break (seven goals, 13 assists). This year, a healthy Koivu has 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) in 46 games at the break, more points than the 42 he had in 57 games last season. ... Brian Burke, the Edina native, will make his first appearance here as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Wild's first game after the break, Tuesday night.

Bryant Allen of Maplewood (Mo.) Richmond Heights is not only an outstanding football player, but he is equally good in basketball. Allen, who committed to play football for the Gophers, was named all-purpose player in the St. Louis Post Dispatch's all-metro team. Allen rushed 54 times for 343 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns in football last fall, while catching 65 passes for 1,005 yards (15.5 yards per reception) and also returning kicks and punts and playing defensive back. In basketball, the 6-0 Allen is averaging 25 points per game for a 15-2 team. In the Class 3 state championship game last year against Lutheran North, the 6-0 guard scored on a layup with four seconds left to complete a comeback from 19 points down, as Richmond Heights won 56-55.

Bill Lester, who runs the Metrodome, said the NCAA has invited a local delegation to the Final Four in Detroit. Even though Minneapolis and the Metrodome were not selected to play host to a future Final Four, the NCAA is interested in the area down the road, if a new indoor stadium is built. Lester said that Minneapolis was promised earlier-round games between 2014 and 2016. The Metrodome will hold first- and second-round games this year March 20 and 22, and about 11,000 tickets have been sold to date. It will be the 10th NCAA tournament to held in the Dome since 1986. ... The Metrodome will lose about $1.8 million in income when both the Gophers football team and the Twins depart. ... Speaking of other events that use the Dome, the Monster Jam was held the other night and drew close to 45,000 fans.

It was nice to hear from former Gophers men's basketball coach Dan Monson this past week. Incidentally, Monson's Long Beach State team won its first five Big West games going into the 49ers' game Saturday against California-Riverside.

Three-sport Minnetonka athlete Taylor Nelson has received a football scholarship offer from Ball State, and the tight end will visit there.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com