INBOX: Kahn, Adelman, and 600 1st Avenue North

Andy G: New topic and one that seems to get discussed less and less often: David Kahn.  You reminded me the other day about the time he gave Kurt Rambis a homework assignment. (!!!) We’ve come a long way from the days when Kahn wielded such authority over his coach.  To everyone’s benefit, Kahn was later able to hire Rick Adelman; an acquisition that naturally shifted the channels of authority over at 600 1st Ave. N.  But the degree to which Kahn seems less relevant is significant and poses some questions for the future of the franchise.  He still holds the prominent title of P.O.B.O., which should amount to the team’s acting agent in matters such as trade discussion and free agent negotiations.  We’ve got a recently drafted #2 pick that should be aggressively shopped and a star center up for restricted free agency.  It’s important that the Timberwolves have a clear chain of authority on these matters, both within the ORG and to be transparent to callers from the other 29 teams.

Why is this important?  Well, James Harden was dealt to Houston in a swift and covert manner that involved Sam Presti making phone calls that he certainly needed a high degree of trust would be: a) fruitful in terms of possibly ending in a big trade; and b) confidential.  I doubt the Wolves had the juice to get The Beard without dishing out Love or Rubio, but we’ll never know because (by all accounts, which includes a Bill Simmons report that Presti first called Golden State and Washington, before Houston) Presti never approached the Wolves.  Opportunities could potentially be lost, is what I’m saying.

1) Do you agree that it is important for the Wolves’ authority chain to be clearly defined and transparent to the league?

2) How much — for comedy’s sake — would you enjoy reading about Rick Adelman being assigned homework from Kahn?

Patrick J: This is easy. On #1, it’s extremely important. Why? Trades, free agency, and basically anything else that involves team communication with other teams, or with player agents, or both, can only be optimized when each side knows whom it is dealing with, and that that person’s assurances can be trusted. Dealing with opaque hierarchy is like trying to deal with the Soviet Union during the Cold War – there may be common knowledge that Khrushchev or Brezhnev is nominally in charge, but it’s unclear how the decision-making hierarchy actually works. This creates all kinds of unnecessary challenges to getting deals done for the Wolves, unless there’s a secret understanding around the League that you only deal directly with Adelman or with Kahn or with Rob Moor (which I doubt exists).

As a result, other teams are probably just as confused as we are.

What that means is, they’re probably equally likely to float one-sided offers past the Wolves brass as they would be under normal circumstances on the chance that 600 1st Ave will bite, but they may be far less likely to get into the kind of extensive, sometimes excruciating, discussions and negotiations required to make a big, meaningful deal. It’s a classic coordination game.

In practical terms, this means that, assuming Adelman has final say over major personnel decisions, he should declare his intentions to return as soon as possible – preferably immediately after the season ends – and the Wolves should make clear to the rest of the League, off the record, that Adelman will be their primary interlocutor. If he’s not returning and Kahn is a figurehead who’s no longer trusted to make critical personnel decisions, then Adelman still needs to declare his intentions not to return immediately after the season, and it follows that Taylor should fire Kahn and replace him quickly with a GM who has clear control over personnel decisions. Moreover, unlike how the Taylor/Kahn/Rambis situation played out, if Adelman leaves, a new coach should be hired sooner rather than later in addition to the new GM, so the Wolves can at least present a clear front to the rest of the League about who they are, and what their preferences for the way forward are likely to be, and whom other teams need to impress if they’re to do deals with us. These are all difficult, high-level personnel issues to deal with, and I’m discussing them in very cold, impersonal terms. I know that isn’t how it necessarily works, especially within an organization in which Glen Taylor is reputed to be loyal to employees (sometimes to a fault), but it’s in the franchise’s best interest and I hope everyone gets that.

Any final thoughts?

Andy G: I think I pretty much agree with all of that.  One thing I’d add is that the draft is — as is usually the case, here — an important one, with a pair of first rounders; one being in the middle of the lottery.  Given that Adelman’s son R.J. is the team’s Director of Player Personnel, I think it would be tough to make any sort of clean transition between the end of the season and the draft.  But the whole thing is worth keeping an eye on as the Wolves have all sorts of different concerns to address and consider with an unusual front office hierarchy.


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