Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Timberwolves Problems Start at the Top

Pioneer Press reporter Rick Alonzo's recent two-part Q&A with Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor reveals the dysfunction behind the scenes at Target Center. Here are some highlights from part one, which focuses mostly on management, beginning with setting the record straight on Flip Saunders' role in torpedoing the organization,
...the Chauncey (Billups) thing (in 2002, when Billups left Minnesota as a free agent). Kevin came to me and asked me for the money. He wanted to keep Chauncey, and I OK'd it. And Flip didn't think Chauncey was going to make it. So Kevin said we're crazy to spend this kind of money on a guy if the coach is saying that Chauncey isn't going to make it...Chauncey really wanted to stay. Chauncey came to us and was like, I really like it here. You guys have really renewed my life. I think this is really a good team. We said, listen, if another team will pay you, you better take it, because if you come here, you may be the backup (point) guard. You probably will be. As it would have worked out, he would have been the starting guard.

Then K.G. came along and he says, well, Flip doesn't have it anymore. That really puts McHale on the spot. He says, well, now if the star guy says the coach doesn't have it and we can't make it, it's kind of like, did Kevin (McHale) get rid of Flip, or did K.G. say none of us on the team trust Flip anymore? I will tell you this: Flip came to me earlier and asked to resign, said he'd resign. And McHale talked him into staying on.

I know when Flip did go, I called up Flip and said, OK, you're out, and he says yeah. I told Flip, I'd like to maybe keep you in the organization in another spot. He said OK, I'll do that. I know that two weeks later, he changed it all around, that he got fired and nobody talked to him. I know it didn't go down that way, and I know (McHale) got blamed for that.

Taylor goes on to throw his current General Manager, Kevin McHale, under the bus,
Kevin is very poor on details. You've got to recognize what he is good at and what he's not good at. And generally, if we've kind of failed, it's been some of the details stuff.

What kind of details?

Let's just say if you're doing a trade. Checking a little bit more, checking into background a little bit more. I think some of the other teams probably have done a little bit better job. Going to Europe, knowing the guys a little bit better. Some of the details like that.

I think Kevin is a little bit like me. Either I like somebody or I don't like somebody, which is fine. But you better have some detail people behind you supporting that, making sure your feelings are right. I'm talking more about business, but I still see Kevin's job as more business.

Could we run as good without Kevin? I'm not sure we couldn't run as good without Kevin. If Kevin came and resigned, would I accept? I probably would. Do I want to fire him? Why would I want to embarrass him? He's done a lot of good.

How would you like to come to work the next morning knowing your boss told the entire world, that his company would run fine without you? In other words, you don't make a difference, and the only reason you are still employed is because he doesn't want to embarrass you. As if that statement isn't embarrassing enough.

Part two of the interview focuses on players and coaches, past and present. First, Taylor speaks about the team's effort under Wittman last year,

I didn't see it...I thought I was going to see it when Randy took over. I don't think I saw it like what I expected to see. There was some improvement, but I don't think he ever got it.

So why did you re-sign Wittman to be the permanent coach?

I don't know if we could have made those changes with K.G. here. I don't know that Randy would have made any difference if K.G. was here. I think without K.G., with new guys, it might work with Randy.

It has more to do with K.G., and K.G. not liking Mike James, and Marko (Jaric), and he didn't like Mark Blount. Heavens, half the starting team. And Ricky (Davis) didn't listen to (Wittman). So it was kind of like, holy gripes. But I don't know who I could have brought in. I know I would have had to bring in a really experienced guy. There weren't too many guys available.

Maybe the Houston coach (former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy). I probably would have gone after him, because he could have come up here and maybe set the tone. You would have had to have had a guy like that. But once I made up my mind, which I did pretty early after the season ... that K.G. was gone, by that time, it was like, well then I think if I do that, then I think Randy can work.

So, basically Randy Wittman was plan "D"? Nice Glen. Way to give the new guy a vote of confidence. I'm sure young coaches are clamoring to sit on the sidelines of the Target Center.

Now, for the bombshell. Apparently, the captain of all captains, 'Sota's beloved Big Ticket, played a crucial role in this team's failure last year.
I think there was a lot of stuff going on that we just couldn't talk about publicly. K.G. wanted Trenton (Hassell, forward) around. K.G. wanted Troy (Hudson, guard) around. And those guys took advantage of the situation, and it drove me nuts. I thought both of those guys could have been better players. But somehow because K.G. stuck up for them, they probably would have both been better players this year without K.G. But they had gone down the rope so far...

They just didn't put the effort into it like they should have. Somehow, Trenton thought he had earned the starting role, and K.G. would keep him on the starting role. Neither guy would help certain teammates out on the floor. It wasn't as apparent to me until Wittman said, "here's what they're doing, watch them". They would run a play, and Trenton was supposed to cover for the other guy, and he wouldn't cover for the other guy. The fans didn't know that. So the other guy looked pretty stupid.
Maybe, instead of deflecting blame, and passing the buck, Glen Taylor should look in the mirror. How does an owner allow a general manager who is poor on the details remain in his position? Is it possible that the poor team chemistry was a result of McHale's failure to look into the details when acquiring certain players? Finally, since NBA contracts are guaranteed, why not bring in a coach who would effectively address these issues rather than let them fester? Really, Timberwolves fans cannot blame Kevin McHale for fulfilling his employers low expectations. However, we can blame Glen Taylor for not holding anyone in this organization accountable. So, T-Wolves fans, let's stop blaming McHale and go straight to the top and demand some accountability.


Siege said...

Wow. This guy is a piece of work. I hope his PR people tell him never to take an interview again. Openly blaming the people under him is so classless and makes no sense - as you pointed out - it ultimately reflects back on him for keeping these people around if they are so incompetent.

Todd Wold said...

I guess that's just the kind of guy he is : )
How long can he go with a losing team before he realizes he's the problem? Probably much, much longer unfortunately. Maybe he would sell....