Major changes appear likely for Timberwolves

By Jerry Zgoda

Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor appears focused on hiring an outside candidate to lead his team, an indication he is prepared to make sweeping organizational changes soon that would include Kevin McHale’s departure after 16 years with the franchise, 14 years as the basketball operations boss.

Taylor said Sunday afternoon that he has not extended a job offer yet and is completing final reference checks in a search he hopes to complete in the next week or two.

He refused to address chatter around the NBA that he has narrowed his search to a short list that includes San Antonio vice president/assistant general manager Dennis Lindsey and Cleveland assistant general manager Lance Blanks, citing a promise he said he made to all candidates to keep the process confidential.


If the Wolves go outside the franchise rather than promote Fred Hoiberg or Jim Stack — both appear long shots at this point — the person hired to reorganize the front office of a team that won 46 games the past two seasons would have no reason to bring McHale back as head coach.

Taylor repeatedly had said McHale himself would decide whether he returns, ever since Taylor sent his personnel decision-maker from the front office to the coach’s bench in early December.

He reversed course last week, telling the Star Tribune the new boss won’t be obligated to retain McHale.

Why the switcheroo?

Maybe he never really meant it and instead wanted to give McHale, whom he promoted from assistant general manager to vice president of basketball operations in May 1995 after buying the team in 1994 and has remained so loyal to ever since, a graceful way to exit.

Or perhaps he realized he had the process backward, and candidates he sought are unwilling to remake such a mismanaged franchise if they must keep McHale and his looming presence.

Taylor also has called this moment a chance to chart a new course for the "first time" since be bought the team and hired McHale.

While McHale presumably has gone home to fix his deck or to his northern cabin to rake pine needles and contemplate his future, Taylor and team CEO Rob Moor have been completing research to make a crucial decision about the franchise’s future.


They apparently have turned that search toward a Spurs family tree that has produced four NBA titles and such astute draft selections as Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford on Sunday told the San Antonio News-Express he has granted the Wolves permission to talk to Lindsey, a process believed to be well along.

Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the team hadn’t formally given the Wolves permission to talk with Blanks, whom a source suggested is, along with Lindsey, a finalist for the job.

The Spurs hired Lindsey in June 2007 just after they won that fourth title to replace wunderkind Sam Presti — whom the Seattle SuperSonics had just hired at age 30 to run their basketball operations — after he spent 11 seasons with the Houston Rockets, the last five as VP of basketball operations/player personnel.

A teammate of future NBA players Micheal Williams and David Wesley at Baylor, Lindsey has coached at a Reebok camp overseas for top European players the last four summers. Lindsey interviewed with Atlanta last year, but withdrew his name from consideration to lead the Hawks.

Taylor seemingly has pursued assistant general managers rather than executives who already hold the top job with their teams, presumably because of cost efficiency in these troubled economic times and his timeline.

He wants to hire the new guy in the next few weeks because this is a crucial summer for his franchise. NBA teams prevent employees from making lateral moves before the June draft while assistants usually aren’t denied the promotion. Milwaukee hired assistant GM John Hammond away from Detroit last May; the SuperSonics hired Presti three weeks before the draft the year before that.

The Wolves own three first-round picks in the June 25 draft, have the expiring contracts of Brian Cardinal and Mike Miller to dangle in potential trades and possess enough salary-cap space the next two summers to trade for an impact, well-paid player.


All those factors make the Wolves’ job attractive, despite their record the past two seasons. All those factors also suggest Taylor might believe now is the time to finally make a significant move about which his team’s remaining fans have just one question:

What took so long?

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