David Kahn Bungles Kurt Rambis Firing: Even When He Is Right, He Is Wrong

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IJune 23, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05:  Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis looks on from the bench during a game against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on March 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Two years ago, Minnesota Timberwolves president and general manager David Kahn went into the NBA Draft without a head coach.  Many wondered if Kahn was making a mistake.

In the NBA, the coach and the general manager have to be on the same page if the team is going to have success.

No team can be successful when the general manager is drafting players that don’t fit into the scheme the coach is trying to implement.

Two years ago, many wondered how Kahn could draft the right players without knowing what players would fit into the new coach’s plans.

Kahn assured everyone that there was no reason to panic as he had everything under control.

After all, all Kahn knew what style of play that he wanted to bring to Minnesota.

Kahn simply needed to draft players to fit his proposed style of play and then hire a coach that understood Kahn’s vision.

The first player drafted by Kahn was point guard Ricky Rubio, the next player taken was point guard Jonny Flynn.

In taking Rubio and Flynn, fans had reason to believe that they would see a pick and roll offense as both point guards had cut their baby teeth in pick and roll offenses.

Kahn however brought to Minnesota a disciple of the Triangle offense when he hired Kurt Rambis away from Zen Master Phil Jackson.

The triangle offense in the Rambis era got off to a very rocky start as the Timberwolves went 15-67 in his first season at the helm.

Timberwolves fans weren’t overly concerned as Rambis had no ability to shape the team. 

The second year would be different for Rambis as he could bring in free agents that would understand what he was trying to accomplish and draft impressionable rookies that could be properly molded.

Despite almost completely overhauling the team, the Timberwolves struggled in the triangle offense in year two under Rambis’ tutelage winning an anemic 17 games.

Ordinarily a coach would be summarily fired after going 100 games under .500 in just two seasons.  Kahn however has not fired Rambis but instead gave him the cold shoulder, a very cold shoulder.

Rambis was noticeably absent from the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago

When Kahn was asked about Rambis’ absence and Rambis future with the team, the silence from Kahn was deafening.

In the vacuum, Rambis was asked whether he expected to be involved in preparations for the June 23 draft.

Rambis answer was short and clear, “Don’t know.”  Really?

How could Kahn even think about going into this year’s draft without coming to some resolution about his head coach given the past two years?

If the Wolves fail to make the right decision because Kahn and the Wolves head coach are not on the same page, Minnesota could be stuck in basketball purgatory for the next three years as they don’t have a first round pick next year.

If the Wolves keep the pick, Minnesota will likely have the opportunity to select either Duke’s Kyrie Irving or Arizona’s Derrick Williams.

If Irving is drafted, how do the Wolves manage the dynamic of having two young point guards in Rubio and Irving on the same squad?

If the pick is Williams, how does Minnesota juggle playing time for their new rookie when they have Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Wesley Johnson on their roster?

Alternatively, because of the players already on the Wolves roster, should Minnesota package the pick with someone on their roster to get a more established player?

Kahn, clearly committed to march to the beat of a different drummer, has once again decided that he does not need the input of his head coach in making such decisions.

Today Yahoo Sports and the UPI have begun reporting that Kahn is set to fire Rambis after the draft.

The news is no surprise to anyone who follows the NBA. 

The decision to fire Rambis is the right decision.  Remember, Rambis was 100 games under .500 in just two seasons. 

Rambis might be able to coach at the NBA level but both he and the Wolves need a fresh start.

While the decision to fire Rambis is correct, the execution by Kahn was all wrong.

Any shred of credibility that Rambis could have hoped to retain to position himself to continue as the Timberwolves Coach was lost when he was invited to the Chicago NBA draft combine.

There is no way Rambis could have come back next year to coach the Timberwolves after being given the cold shoulder by Kahn.

Rambis has simply been dead man walking since the Chicago NBA draft combine.

There was no need for Kahn to be unequivocal in his comments about Rambis for so long. Kahn should have thanked Rambis for his efforts on behalf of the team several months ago. 

Instead of telling Rambis directly that his services were no longer welcome, Kahn publicly ignored Rambis to the point of no return.

Now the Wolves fan base instead of being focused on the future now have to be reminded of how impotent Minnesota has been over the past two years as they contemplate when Rambis’ firing becomes official.

Kahn by delaying the inevitable concerning Rambis has stolen joy from tonight’s announcement of the “new” beginning that is about to occur with the Wolves.

Even when Kahn is right, he is wrong.  Kahn simply dropped the ball in firing Rambis.

Hopefully, Kahn will orchestrate the hiring of the new Wolves coach such that this chapter in Wolves history is quickly forgotten.


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