The never-ending search for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ new front office boss hit yet another nadir today with the news that Portland Trail Blazers assistant GM Tom Penn has withdrawn his name from consideration to take an enhanced title and salary from the Blazers to stay with the organization.
The singular word one can use to describe the “process” used to make this hire is: circus. And Glen Taylor is the ringmaster. Instead of the normal way teams go about this (see the Minnesota Wild, for instance), identifying a group of candidates, interviewing them in one fell swoop, maybe interviewing a couple of them again, and then making your pick, Taylor has turned this thing into a massive flop under the big top.
And the cause of the problems is the ringmaster himself. Imagine the ringmaster firing a blow dart into the neck of your high-wire walker or greasing up the trapeze or not feeding the lions for a week before putting them in the cage with the lion tamer. The foolish decisions of Glen Taylor are solely responsible for the predicament the Wolves find themselves in.
First, Taylor brought out his first act: Dennis Lindsey, the assistant GM of the best-run franchise in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. Lindsey has been high on everyone’s radar for open jobs, and in fact, he turned down the Atlanta Hawks last offseason. While the 2008-09 Timberwolves were slogging to the end of their season, Taylor and Lindsey were quietly working on the outlines of a deal. But, as the annoucement loomed, Lindsey suddenly pulled out.
Next, Taylor turned to a pair of folks not currently employed in the league. Former Miami Heat GM Randy Pfund emerged for a time, confirmed to have been interviewed by the team. And then there was David Kahn, who was the Indiana Pacers GM earlier in the decade, before going off to run four D-League franchises. Kahn was noted for being a favorite of NBA Commissioner David Stern and for a history of questionable practices while in D-League. Pfund was seemingly ready to come aboard, but the Wolves apparently gave up of him, leading to his eventual withdrawal. Kahn, meanwhile, was reported to be close to a deal until his history (and negative public reaction?) caused the ringmaster to back away.
As those acts ground to a halt, it was time for the clowns. Enter Bill Simmons, whose entirely unserious campaign (yes, I know he thinks he was being serious) nonetheless galvanized thousands of Wolves fans who were ready to believe in anything or anyone not named David Kahn or Kevin McHale.
The most recent act from the ringmaster was Penn. Penn’s acceptance of essentially the same role with the Blazers that he had before is an indication that something has gone horribly wrong. What is it?
It’s the ringmaster’s insistence on Kevin McHale and Fred Hoiberg remaining part of the organization. No credible candidate is going to going to have his hands tied by his owner in advance. No credible candidate is going to want to be forced to keep two possible successors with close ties to the owner in place.
Mr. Taylor: If you want someone to do the job, let them do the job. Give them the authority they need, and let them go to work.