Kahn takes 'blame for everything' following firing of Kurt Rambis
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It took three months of endless speculation and feet-dragging, but the Minnesota Timberwolves finally reached what seemed to be an inevitable conclusion on Tuesday, firing coach Kurt Rambis after two years with the team.
Wolves' president of basketball operations David Kahn has taken on a bevy of scrutiny for his bizarre handling of a situation many feel was dragged out, for which he embraced full responsibility.
"I want to make sure I take the blame for everything," said Kahn, during a press conference announcing the firing. "And I don't mean that to be pithy. I am the president of basketball operations. Everything that occurs here is under my watch. I don't believe in finger-pointing."
Rambis' job looked to be in jeopardy when the Wolves' 17-win season sputtered to a close in early April, which included a 15-game losing streak to end the year. Kahn opted instead to wait until June before breaching the subject of his head coach's future, citing he and Rambis needed a "cooling-off" period. In the last few weeks, amid reports the Wolves were already beginning the search for a new coach, Kahn adamantly claimed both sides were still in talks and no decision had been made.
"To the extent that this took some time, that's on me," Kahn said. "I wanted to make absolutely certain when we went through this process with Kurt we were making the absolute right decision, because we had made a long-term commitment to him two years ago."
Kahn confirmed he had discussed moving the embattled head coach into a front office role, but when those conversations didn't go anywhere he informed Rambis' representatives Monday that the team had decided to part ways.
"For whatever reason, those things didn't come to fruition. He's known for awhile about the head coaching position, but I was hopeful we could figure out a way for him to stay with us."
When Rambis signed a four-year contract in 2009, he vowed his coaching philosophy was in line with the up-tempo style of play Kahn envisioned. However, Rambis' Triangle system was never the right fit for the painfully young Wolves' squad.
After an initial year to work through the pieces left by the previous coaching regime, Rambis' squad won only two more games in his second season as he struggled to find common ground with his youth-filled team - a problem Kahn sees as a priority to fix going forward.
"It will be very important for the next coach, and I'll say this for the entire staff, to have the ability to connect with a roster that is very young," Kahn said. "Now, I think we know what we have. It just makes it easier to identify somebody who can do exactly what we aimed to do two years ago...
"We're going to play a very up-tempo, fast-breaking style on both ends of the floor and I think it is very important as we go through this search process that we need to identify someone who passionately believes in that."
Kahn remarked the coaching search wouldn't begin until next week, but later on confirmed the rumors that Portland assistant Bernie Bickerstaff had been contacted to interview with the team. Reports have also surfaced of Kahn being interested in current Lakers assistant Quin Snyder and long-time coach Don Nelson. A source told 1500 ESPN former Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is interested in the job, but has not been contacted.
Given the highly publicized and rocky nature of Kahn's tenure with the Wolves, the number of viable candidates who would be eager and willing to take over the position is unknown. A heightened interest level seems to be there, at least in Kahn's eyes, as he said seven or eight coaches had already contacted him about the opening.
Finding someone with head coaching experience at the NBA level is Kahn's preference, although he's not limiting his search.
"I wish this was a more exact science," Kahn said. "But we're excited about starting the process and I think we'll cast a wider net rather than a narrow net."