It’s All Over Now, David Kahn

David Kahn: Back in the saddle for at least one more season

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

Steve Aschburner broke the story this Friday morning on Twitter:

David Kahn is out.  Flip Saunders is [probably] in.  (Flip went on ESPN later today and explained that no deal was finalized.)  But the big news — the part that sent much of Timberwolves Twitter into hysteria — was unequivocal: The Kahn Era is complete.  Done.  No more draft picks and no more press conferences.  No more “Show of hands?” and no more “Michael smoked too much marijuana.”  No more Syracuse.  Praise God, no more Syracuse.  No matter who takes over the job, the David Kahn reign as President of Timberwolves Basketball can be gravestoned 2009-2013.

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense
Take what you have gathered from coincidence
The empty handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

It’s the election season question: Are we better off now than we were four years ago?

Many a Wolves fans are loathe to admit it, but in this case the answer is an undeniable and emphatic YES.  Kahn inherited a 24-win team that had limped across the 2009 season finish line with [by far] its best player hobbling through ACL reconstruction rehab.  McHALE’S LAST STAND was doubling down on a small, slow, skilled front court of Kevin Love and Al Jefferson.  It had a flash of brilliance against sub-standard competition in January 2009 that was derailed in spectacular fashion when Big Al’s knee was blown out in February.  The Wolves that Kahn then inherited were atrocious.  I don’t know if people quite appreciate that, but history is often revised to our heart’s desires.

Kahn arrived with a fresh outlook.  Without the pompous bluster of, say, Tim Brewster, he had the general philosophy that a championship should be the goal.  He observed a roster destined for mediocrity and took immediate steps to change the path.  The basic gist?

We need to get worse in order to get better.

It was a gamble.  Fans would need patience and the team would need to pounce on opportunities.  Kahn’s first big move was his best.  (Sounds a lot like his predecessor.)  He convinced Washington to accept Randy Foye and Mike Miller in exchange for the fifth pick in an intriguing draft; one loaded with point guards.  That gamble paid off more than Wolves fans ever expected when Spanish phenom and current face of the franchise Ricky Rubio fell all the way to #5 where Kahn gladly scooped him up.

The problems pretty much began — and never really stopped — after that draft pick.  Kahn puzzled everyone watching by following up the Rubio pick with another point guard — this time little Jonny Flynn from Syracuse.  As confused as Wolves fans were, the Rubio jubilation won the night and I recall a generally positive vibe following that night.  Two years of watching Jonny and Waiting for Ricky obviously changed that.

The next year was a more contentious draft pick amongst the fan base.  Should they take long-and-athletic Wesley Johnson, another great Syracuse Smile that fit a position of need, or stats god DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky?  Hindsight has told us that the answer was actually “neither” (Paul George) but in any case Wes was a catastrophic whiff of a high-and-crucial draft pick.  Kahn’s overarching gamble of bottoming out in order to find a superstar in the draft was not working.  Ricky wasn’t even here yet.

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home
Your empty handed armies, are all going home
Your lover who just walked out the door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

Despite Jonny and Wes (and Derrick?) I think David Kahn could’ve survived if not for two fatal flaws:

1) He alienated his franchise player something fierce.  I’m not nearly close enough to separate fact from rumor, but I know that I’ve read things like Kahn told people semi-publicly that Kevin Love could be the third or fourth best player on a championship team, he was involved in trade talks — however informal or loose — of (Warriors) Anthony Randolph and Love, and he refused to offer Love the five-year max contract that Russell Westbrook and James Harden recently signed.  Will firing (not re-signing, whatever) Kahn keep Love in Minnesota?  I’m skeptical of this reasoning, but I know one thing: Glen Taylor is going to bet on Love before he bets on Kahn.  Kahn screwed up by making enemies with his best player.

2) The injuries.  With Rubio in the fold, Kahn had this team looking prime for a playoff spot in 2012.  Then Ricky tore his knee.  Same story this year — probably even more so with Kirilenko and Cunningham and Budinger — then Bud’s knee and Love’s hand.  People don’t want excuses, they want results.  The team was losing for the fourth straight year, frustrations grew, and there needs to be a fall guy.  Kahn put himself in the position to be exactly that.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start a new
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

Like everyone else I just want what’s best for the team.  If Kahn’s departure marks a new direction toward perennial playoff appearances, great.  If not, well, at least he gave us Ricky Rubio.  No matter how much you love basketball, it isn’t always interesting and we’re spoiled here now and for the foreseeable future getting to watch one of the most creative and unique guards to every play the game.  I’ll be interested to see where Kahn goes from here.  I was never bothered by his press conferences.  I was entertained by them.  The Jonny and Wes blunders were devastating, but we’re not talking Bowie-Jordan type of opportunity cost.

Eh, I’m probably being too kind here, if not an outright Kahntrarian.  There are things I’ll miss when David Kahn is gone.  I hope his team gets healthy and ultimately proves his Rubio acquisition to be as brilliant as I think it might’ve been.

But, in any event, it’s all over now.



Filed under Timberwolves

13 responses to “It’s All Over Now, David Kahn

  1. Dave A.

    Good report on David Kahn. Very fair. When local teams don’t do well, we normally either fire the coach or need a new stadium/practice facility. This time we’ll buy time by replacing the GM. I don’t envision Adelman and Flip teaming up. Both are experienced coaches. Pick one or the other and be both GM and head coach. Lots of assistants to help.

  2. Eric in Madison

    You left out one of his worst decisions: Hiring Kurt Rambis.

    Look, Kahn was not good. There is probably no reason to pile on as he heads (hopefully) out the door, but his unsuccessful use of a ton of first round draft picks will be his signature. (By the way, Golden State started two combo guards (Curry and Jack), two wings (Thompson and Barnes) and a center (Bogut) last night in a playoff win. Yeah, Curry could have worked here).

    The one (huge) mistake that I won’t blame him too much for is the Love contract. I have to assume that was ultimately a Taylor decision. Kahn absolutely should have found a way to convince Taylor to give Love the 5 year, but I can’t believe it was actually Kahn’s decision.

    • Agree about the draft. I think Kahn’s general philosophy — for this team as he inherited it — was good. The fans had grown tired of mediocre (2004 notwithstanding) and he was correct in seeing that destination with the roster as he inherited it (particularly when you consider Jefferson’s injury).

      But the biggest part of that strategy is scoring in the draft, and he batted essentially 1 for 4 in the lottery, which included picks 2, 4, 5 and 6. Some drafts are luckier than others and sometimes the choice is easier than others but getting 1 starting-caliber player out of those 4 high picks is grounds for termination in this line of work. I completely get that.

      Curry is amazing — maybe the most entertaining player in the NBA. But he and Rubio would not be as good as Golden State’s backcourt and probably not significantly better than when it’s Ricky and Ridnour here. His comparative advantage is burying threes off the dribble. Ricky can’t play off the ball at all, really (hopefully that changes). There’s also the chronological factor of what happens to Ricky’s future when Curry has two good seasons logged at point guard for the Wolves in 2009 and 2010? Flynn made Rubio’s arrival a cause for celebration. Curry would’ve just made it awkward. None of this means Flynn was the right pick or that Curry was not the right pick — just that things get weird when all of the talent is in point guards and you’ve got a bunch of picks. Had I been in Kahn’s position I’d probably have drafted Rubio and then DeRozan. DD is okay and maybe improving but he’s pretty much replacement value with highlight reels.

      • Eric in Madison

        Primarily it was the draft picks. But it showed up in other areas where he failed to understand how to put together a team. I know we’ve been down this path before, but his fetish for failed lottery picks was a real problem. Beasley. Darko. Randolph. He never seemed to understand, at least until Adelman arrived, that being a smart player is an important attribute.

        I know the counter argument is that the Wolves needed to take those sorts of gambles in order to add talent, but I don’t buy it. They needed to spend their resources (including playing time) on players who could help around Love.

        Also, I’m calling bullshit on your Curry take. Having the best shooter in the league next to Rubio wouldn’t help? That’s silly. Plus having him be able to shift over and do his thing when Rubio sits wouldn’t be good? Ridnour ran a ton of his own PnR stuff when Rubio was in the game; that would have been much more dangerous and effective with Curry.

        • If we accept for the sake of this argument that the Wolves would have both Curry and Rubio had they drafted Curry 6th, then yes that would help. I just don’t know if it would approach the sum of the Ricky and Curry parts. Pat disagrees strongly with me on this, so maybe he’ll chime in.

          A very good article about Curry and the Warriors unique shooting attack here: (

          According to Draper, the league average for three pointers assisted is 81 percent. Per Curry’s shooting stats ( only 61 percent of his threes are assisted. That’s a marked difference from leaguewide trends and it’s incredibly valuable to have a player that can pose such a threat off the dribble. If you’re pairing him with Ricky Rubio, you’re either giving Ricky the ball and taking away the huge comparative advantage or you’re giving Curry the ball and you have a pretty terrible shooting guard in Ricky Rubio. This also means that Ricky guards the shooting guard. He can do that, sure, but it removes Ricky’s comparative advantage of bugging the hell out of opposing points.

          The urge is to yell and scream about how Ricky is great and Curry is great so just imagine how great the Wolves would be with both! It’s akin to Gasol and Howard in LA. Sure it’s a better front line than if one were replaced with replacement level player x, but it isn’t nearly as good as the theoretical sum of Pau Gasol plus Dwight Howard.

          And finally, bringing this home, there is the salary cap. There could be a nice little stretch here with Ricky on the rookie scale, thanks to his delay in Coming to America (again, assuming things work out smoothly in transitioning to a team with an up and coming star at point guard) but even a little bit longer term — 2015 and beyond — you’re looking at 20 to 30 million dollars tied up in your dual point guard attack. That’s a poor use of assets. Could they trade one of them for younger and cheaper pieces? Sure, but that’s just another step in the chain of assumptions that begins with Ricky Rubio agreeing to join a team that has a point guard better than he is.

          The simplest “we should have drafted Curry” take is probably this:

          Curry is better than Rubio.

    • Good call — Rambis was a terrible hire. On the other hand, Adelman was a terrific hire.

  3. Nathan Anderson

    The best thing about the Kahn era is that he chose to bring in professionals from outside of Taylor’s circle. Whether it be Rambis or Adelman, at least they were outsiders to this organization. Of course, the worst part of the Kahn era is that he often chose poorly.

    Now Flip is more competent than Rambis and Kahn, but unfortunately he’s a Taylor guy. I guess I prefer competence, but I really like the idea of bursting the Taylor Corp bubble. Choosing to bring in proven professionals with a history outside of your circle is a great decision.

    Sell, Glen, Sell!

    • Nathan–
      That is well put. Kahn pretty much blew up the Wolves as we previously knew them, but unfortunately botched some of the major moves necessary to build what he wanted.

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