MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Goodbye, David Kahn.
Hello, Flip Saunders. Again.
The Minnesota Timberwolves announced Thursday that owner Glen Taylor will not to pick up the option for next season on Kahn's contract. Three people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Taylor has agreed on a deal to hire Saunders as Kahn's replacement. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn't been made.
Saunders coached the Wolves from 1995-2005, and his reputation in these parts only grew when the Timberwolves cratered after his exit.
"We want to thank David for all of his efforts the past four years with our basketball team," Taylor said in a statement issued by the team. "These are always difficult decisions, but at this time, we believe it is in the best interest of our organization to make a change. We wish David all the best in the future."
Kahn spent four seasons leading the Timberwolves. He helped bring point guard Ricky Rubio and coach Rick Adelman to Minnesota, but his teams went 89-223 and missed the playoffs in all four of his seasons.
"It's always the owner's prerogative," Kahn told The AP. "I don't think it's appropriate to say whether it's fair or not. I'm very grateful for the opportunity that Glen gave me."
Taylor's decision brings an end to a polarizing reign for Kahn. After serving as an executive with the Indiana Pacers, Kahn was a surprise hire in 2009 to replace longtime Timberwolves executive Kevin McHale. Kahn eventually decided not to bring McHale back as head coach, then went about a massive rebuild of a team that was still trying to move on after trading franchise player Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007.
Kahn tabbed Kurt Rambis to usher in a new identity and style of play, but he lasted only two seasons on the job. With cleaning up the team's salary cap situation a priority in the first season, the Wolves won just 15 games with a collection of retreads and journeymen surrounding Al Jefferson, who was in his first season back from a torn ACL, and Kevin Love, who was in his second season in the league.
Kahn and Rambis clashed repeatedly on the direction of the team and the philosophy on the court. Rambis was fired with a record of 32-132 and Kahn was able to help lure Adelman in 2011 to take over a roster that was just starting to take shape. With Rubio emerging as a young dynamo in his rookie season and Love asserting himself as perhaps the best power forward in the game, the Timberwolves were on track to end a long playoff drought until Rubio went down with a torn ACL in March.
Perhaps more damaging, Kahn drew Love's wrath by refusing to give him a maximum five-year extension in January. Love instead signed a four-year deal with an opt-out after three seasons and didn't hide his disappointment. He seethed behind the scenes and publicly about the perceived slight, a grudge that would carry over into this season.
"I think Kevin is on a journey from the individual to the team," Kahn said. "It's a journey that many players have taken in their careers. I've had several positive conversations with Kevin in the last couple of months. I sense that he's making that journey, and he recognizes there are many bumps in the road, and he's making that journey to the team. I'm hopeful he'll arrive safely there. I like him a lot."