Mackey: Will Wolves' coaching search suffer from Kahn-Taylor blunder?
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As Darren Wolfson reported Wednesday, it sounds as if the Minnesota Timberwolves will be able to hire a veteran coach like George Karl (age 62) or Lionel Hollins (60) if they choose to go that route, although no contact has been made yet.
Both men certainly have positive qualities. Hollins led a defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies franchise to a 143-87 record and three straight playoff appearances from 2010-2013, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals last year. He even got Zach Randolph to play consistent defense.
Karl's track record is a lot like Rick Adelman's. Take that however you want. Karl averaged 49 wins in the regular season (per 82 games) while Adelman averaged 47. Karl went to the NBA Finals once at age 44 and lost. Adelman went twice, at ages 43 and 45, and lost both times. Both have exactly one playoff series win each in the last nine seasons.
Karl and Hollins are likely both at the point in their lives where they want to coach a possible playoff contender, as opposed to grabbing a shovel and a hardhat for a rebuilding project. And the Wolves, coming off a 40-win season, do figure to be in the playoff mix next season.
But with Kevin Love able to opt out of his contract in the summer of 2015, next season could also symbolize a locomotive chugging off a cliff. Maybe Karl and Hollins don't care, because all they want is a shot to coach an underachieving, playoff-caliber team with one of the best players in the NBA, regardless of how bleak the long-term future could look like after 2015.
See, that's why it's such a damn shame David Kahn and Glen Taylor fumbled Love's contract situation two years ago. It made no sense at the time to irritate and insult the face of the franchise by keeping the five-year max contract off the table. It made even less sense to allow Love to have an opt-out clause after three seasons. And it all looks even more ridiculous now that Ricky Rubio hasn't yet proved worthy of a five-year max contract.
Imagine how much different the vibe surrounding the Timberwolves would feel like right now if Love was signed through 2017 like he should be. Instead of an overwhelming feeling of impending doom, we'd all just shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, 40 wins was a disappointment, but that's OK! The Wolves have plenty of time to figure this out!" Now if the Wolves don't get off to a sizzling start next season, Flip Saunders will be forced to start having those dreaded pre-deadline phone conversations with opposing GMs.
Coaching candidates see the situation too, especially highly sought-after guys like, say, Fred Hoiberg, Billy Donovan and Tom Izzo (who told ESPN's Andy Katz on Wednesday he isn't leaving Michigan State). Or hot-seat guys like Frank Vogel, who could probably pick his next job if the Pacers lose to the Hawks and let him go. All of these candidates might have been pipe dreams either way, but the Wolves' uncertain future acts as a 'Keep Away' sign.
Finding a sharp, energized coach for the long haul who is under the age of 60 would be ideal for the Wolves. But how many sharp, energized guys with previous coaching experience would want to sign up for a situation where one of the best players on the planet might not be here for the long haul?
It all goes back to Kahn and Taylor overplaying their hand.