Well, how about that. David Kahn is out and Flip Saunders is in, and the appropriate response from sports fans from Minnesota and beyond should be a collective shoulder shrug. Plenty of others have done a better job of eulogizing/pulverizing Kahn than I ever could, and besides I have always been much more of a Kahn supporter than is welcome ‘round the internet. I think he made a bunch of 50-50 gambles on young players and lost every time, took the safe pick in the draft every time (and lost), and talked too much. On the other hand, I have stringently defended his handling of the Kevin Love situation and think he did the impossible by bringing not only Rick Adelman (the most competent coach in the entirety of Minnesota sports during my time on this earth), but also bringing in Kurt Rambis, who if you all don’t remember was *the* heir apparent to Phil Jackson, and a top coaching candidate at the time the Wolves were at rock bottom. This is to say nothing of his post-Jewish-summer-camp-like long-distance courting of a certain Spanish point guard that miraculously brought Youtubio over from Spain.
But this isn’t about David Kahn anymore, it’s about Flip. And it’s about what Flip represents in terms of Minnesotan complacency. Earlier, Jerry Zgoda tweeted, “Taylor said he had list of 8 candidates, including Phil Jackson, to call about job and his comfort w/ Flip superseded all, never got to list.” The key word here is “comfort.” Comfort outweighs a phone call to Phil Jackson. Comfort outweighs a phone call to some RC Buford protégé or an ex-player who might bring a fresh perspective with fresh connections. Comfort means bringing back the coach you nudged out of town far too late, a guy gave new meaning to the term “players’ coach” by instantiating an offense that nursed KG into becoming a career jumpshooter as well as an armchair GM. Heck, might as well throw in an ownership stake as well. TrueHoop called this a deal “ similar to the arrangement Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat.” For geographically specific scope comparisons, that’s like drawing an analogy between Miami’s own Tony Montana and this guy I knew who sold nickel bags outside the Electric Fetus.
The comfort of the old boys network pervades Minnesota sports. The Timberwolves have famously given undeserved opportunities to Gophers ranging from Rick Rickert to John Thomas. The Minnesota Vikings are giving a tryout to Cris Carter’s son, Duron, whose former quarterback said of the younger Carter, “The team that drafts Duron Carter will get the most lazy, whiny, and non-work ethic player in the NFL has ever seen. Horrible person and will be a complete cancer to any team on the board.” The Minnesota Twins are the worst offenders of all, signing any player with the thinnest blood relationship to anybody on the 1987 World Series team or any person who claims to know Steve Lombardozzi. Just last week, I also found out, Doug Mientkiwicz, one of the most annoyingly ineffective Twins ever, is coaching the Twins’ farm team, the Fort Myers Miracle. My friend Andy joke-tweeted about the nepotism in Minnesota sports, “Idea for a long grift: 1) Move to Minneapolis with the last name Puckett. 2) Become dean of University of Minnesota.”
So here we are with Flip, one of the good old boys, someone inoffensive enough to at least restore the illusion of competence to the Timberwolves. The good news is I certainly trust him to navigate this year’s draft, try to re-sign Pekovic, get back in Kevin Love’s good graces, and entice some three-point shooters to come up North. The problem is, that is the bare minimum of what any new team president would have had to do for the Wolves, and I’m not sure Flip can do much more than that. He has never been thought of as a “great basketball mind” (except during a few months of his Pistons career when the “offensive genius” tag was floating around because he had a team full of jumpshooters playing his jumpshooting sets) nor does he have the type of rolodex that NBA lifers (e.g., Donnie Walsh) and ex-NBA players like Larry Bird tend to have. He doesn’t seem to have a beat on Euroleague guys, and I never thought of him to be a great judge of talent during his previous Timberwolves tenure (*cough* Joe Smith). It’s safe to say all Flip can do at this point is impress me.
At the same time, this move has me yearning for some fresh air to be piped through the Target Center vents. Even when you remove the stench of Kahn’s bloated corpse from the building, all that remains is a familiar old scent of a time gone by, not unlike the untouched Werther’s Originals sitting in a bowl at your great aunt’s apartment. David Kahn at least gave Minnesota a new identity when he put Adelman and Rubio at the helm, and brought in guys who are used to winning like JJ Barea, Nikola Pekovic, and Alexey Shved. I hope the hiring of Flip doesn’t bring the Timberwolves back to their old, complacent, first-round exiting ways.