Updated: September 13th, 2011 10:00pm
Zulgad: Rick Adelman's hiring might not be enough to save David Kahn

Zulgad: Rick Adelman's hiring might not be enough to save David Kahn

by Judd Zulgad

On the surface it appears as if Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn got his man.

Rick Adelman was the top choice of the seven head coaching candidates that Kahn interviewed and brings an instant credibility to the Wolves bench that has been lacking for several seasons.

Adelman, 65, is eighth all-time in NBA coaching victories with a 945-616 record in 20 seasons. That includes stops with the Portland Trail Blazers (1988-94), Golden State Warriors (1995-97), Sacramento Kings (1998-2006) and Houston Rockets (2007-11).

Adelman took Portland to the NBA Finals in 1990 and '92 and has had 12 consecutive winning seasons, dating to 1997.

But no matter how Adelman fares in his latest job - he reportedly will receive a contract that is expected to be for $25 million over five years - one has to wonder if it will be enough to save Kahn's job.

Kahn is entering the final guaranteed year of the contract he signed to replace Kevin McHale in May 2009. Kahn was given the keys to turn around the troubled franchise but so far hasn't come close to righting things.

His first choice as head coach, Kurt Rambis, went 32-132 in two seasons, including an NBA-worst 17-65 in 2010-11.

That would have been bad enough, but Kahn then turned Rambis into a sympathetic figure by allowing him to twist in the wind this offseason before finally firing him in July.

Adelman certainly will be an upgrade over Rambis - the additions of guard Ricky Rubio and forward Derrick Williams also should help - but that could be the problem for Kahn.

When Adelman finally is introduced at a press conference next week or the week after, everyone is going to say the right things. And no one is likely to talk about exactly how much control Adelman will be given.

But it's highly unlikely a guy with Adelman's resume accepted a job without some definite guarantees about the type of say he will have on personnel decisions.

That is supposed to be Kahn's territory and it's possible the two could be asked to collaborate on decisions. That actually happening might be a huge long shot.

Adrian Wojnarowski, an NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports, wrote that Adelman has a disdain for Kahn that dates to the former's time as coach of the Trail Blazers and the latter's time covering that team as a sportswriter for the Oregonian. I know, I know, you're shocked the head coach of a professional sports team wouldn't be best buds with a guy who covers that club.

Wojnarowski's point was that Adelman talked himself into taking the Wolves job because of the money and the fact he knew that while Kahn will retain his title that the coach will be the one calling the shots.

If that's the case, and things do begin to turn around, is Adelman going to want to share the spotlight with Kahn? Even if the relationship between Adelman and Kahn isn't as bad as Wojnarowski paints it, if it's even close to being fractured odds are someone isn't going to last long.

Of course, if things don't turn around, Kahn also is going to take the fall. Rubio doesn't work out? It's Kahn's fault. Michael Beasley remains a distraction? Kahn's fault. Seats remain empty at Target Center?

You get the picture.

Adelman isn't taking the blame for anything once the NBA lockout ends.

Owner Glen Taylor already is going to have to pay Rambis about $4 million over the next two seasons not to coach the team and he has no intention of ever having to pay Adelman not to work.

But with only one season left on Kahn's contract, cutting ties with the former sportswriter wouldn't be difficult. Heck, it would win Taylor points with many Wolves fans.

All of this means that although Kahn might have gotten his man, he also might end up being the odd man out. No matter what happens.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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In this story: Michael Beasley, Kurt Rambis