Flip/Flop

Christian Petersen

Some thoughts on the possibility of bringing back a man who already had his chance

First of all, let's state the obvious: Neither the team, the owner, nor any or the parties involved in Asch's story have confirmed (or denied) any of the details concerning Flip Saunders or David Kahn. Keep in mind that Flip has some of the loosest lips in town and much like he may have been something of a bad actor in all of the Gopher coaching search nonsense, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he's pulling everybody's leg with this bit, as well. If he is, then a sane world would not let him back on the airwaves.

Setting that aside, the question of bringing back the all-time KG-ingest coach in franchise history is a two-pronged matter. First, there is the philosophical part of the bit: The Wolves are run by a terrible owner who is indecisive, cheap in all the wrong places, loyal to a fault (cough...nepotism...cough), and the very idea of yet another one of his nookie blankies being brought back in for another shot at something different is a horrific thought all unto itself. Someday, the Journal of Psychiatric Research is going to contain an article about a weird strain of billionaire delusion known as Taylorism.

Second, there is the pragmatic matter of whether or not Flip would be any good at the actual job, and what sorts of immediate changes his regime would bring to a squad that, if healthy, is good enough to compete in the Western Conference. Flip has been out of the player personnel game for quite some time and I'm not really sure how, at this point, hiring an ESPN/KFAN talk show analyst is that big of a step up from hiring a washed up newspaper columnist/lawyer/failed D-League destroyer.

The philosophical bit is going to be a matter of personal preference for most fans. It is easy to forget that we are heading into the 10th year since the Wolves made the playoffs and, for some, any return to past glory--whether it is via record or front office personnel--is going to be a welcome trip. Hell, the Twinkies are burning this candle to the wick with Terry Ryan. Now throw in the one of us and Gopher angles and you are going to have a fairly decent chunk of the casual sporting public ready to throw their support behind El Flipster.

Personally, I've never been able to wrap my head around how Glen Taylor can continue to light money on fire by putting off the modernization of his front office/basketball operations. I don't know how many times I've written this over the last 6-7 years but teams like the Wolves are not hot spot free agent destinations and they need to throw everything they have into the draft, D-League, and Euro scouting. How much coin did Kahn burn on guys like Darko and Roy? How much money have the Wolves lost by not being in the playoffs for nearly a decade? How much would it have cost to hire the best player personnel guy from San Antonio, Houston, etc and give him everything he needed for scouting, stats, etc?

Now, this sort of thing will always get back around to "it's not my money" so I shouldn't be complaining, but still, it seems obvious enough that...well, maybe I just can't imagine what it's like to be in a billionaire bubble and that these are the only basketball people Glen actually knows, understands, can listen to, whatever.

Maybe this is just the first sign that Glen is going to sell the team to the group that Flip supposedly represents. Maybe this is a sign that he's even more delusional about professional basketball than previously thought and he will attempt to get the new ownership group to accept Flip in their front office as a matter of "continuity." Who knows?

What does seem likely is that Flip is (probably) getting hired because he's a comfy fit for a bad owner. The question isn't whether or not this is an upgrade over David Kahn; rather, it is whether or not it is an upgrade over the status quo...which brings us to the matter of Flip's chops.

Flip Saunders was lucky enough to coach KG from his rookie year to the year following the Western Conference Finals. He then was hired by the Detroit Pistons to take over a team that lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Following that he was hired by the weird orange wizard of Washington.

For those of us who remember watching Flip's Minnesota teams in action they were notable for a few things: 1, controlled point guard play; 2, mid range jump shots; 3, not a lot of free throws; 4, not a lot of 3 pointers. Oh, they also had this guy named KG. In his prime.

Flip was known for having a big playbook (which later rubbed Ben Wallace the wrong way in Detroit) and for mid range offenses that shied away from contact. During his 3 years in Detroit, his teams were ranked a league average of 17th in 3pa/g and 23 in fta/g. In Washington his teams averaged 25/20. In his last 7 years in Minnesota they averaged 25/27. I'm pretty sure a longer-than-10-minute dig into the midrangeness of Flip's teams would yield quite a few more examples of his style of play's outdatedness. Granted, he wouldn't be coaching the current roster, but it's impossible to not think that his coaching wouldn't inform his player personnel ideas. It's amazing to think of what the current Wolves roster would look like with fewer free throws and more mid range jump shots.

There's really nothing in Flip's resume to suggest that he looks at basketball any differently now than he did during his tenure here, in Detroit, or in Washington. Now try and think about all the nice things people say about the perfectly modern front offices of Detroit, Washington, and Minnesota.

(crickets)

Now click here and forward the audio to the 18 minute mark to listen to Flip mansplain advanced statistics. Methinks this probably works on talk radio and for Glen, but for everybody else who has an internet connection and can spend a few minutes on the APBR board, not so much.

We all have a pretty good idea that David Kahn was able to land the POBO job because he was willing to deal with Glen's nonsense and that he was something of a Taylor Whisperer. Now enter someone who has known Taylor for much longer, brought him much happer past court side experiences with which to have his arm fall asleep around his lady's shoulder, and who is in regards to currently being paid by the largest sports network in regards to the country to talk professionally in regards to professional basketball. In regards to. I don't think Flip is a con man but he certainly has the makings of a Kahn one, at least in the Taylor Whisperer and modern front office departments. He just has the good sense (or great north experience) to dress up his awful ideas in radio friendly niceness instead of creepy unearned elitism.

All of that being said, we really don't know how Flip will perform with this particular job and with the POBO job all to himself. We have the post Joe Smith year to look at but that's not much. We can make some guesses based on his appearances on KFAN (he originally was not a Rubio fan) and ESPN, but we really don't know if he or the people he will surround himself with will know what they are doing.

We'll leave the subject of David Kahn to another post but I'd really like to have anyone argue that he was still a factor in this franchise's personnel decision making process. Following the Roy debacle he was, I think, effectively marginalized. Yes, it's great that he's gone, but what does that mean for a status quo that was ravaged by little else besides injury? That's what the big question is with all of this is. Did Rick Adelman tell Taylor that he's done? If so, this might be the best possible move the franchise could make prior to a sale. Will Flip keep the core in place until the sale? If so, huzzah!

Wrapping this bad boy up, this is a pretty hard pill to swallow on a purely philosophical front. It's yet another country club rehash with a franchise that desperately needs new ways of thinking. On the pragmatic side of things there isn't a lot in Flip's resume to suggest that he's a modern NBA man capable of running a modern NBA front office. However, we won't really be able to make any judgments about his proficiency until we know about Adelman's future and what that means for players like AK, Pek, and Bud. Without those 3, it won't matter a whole lot who is running the team's basketball operations, as they will be right back where they were when Kahn got here, when McHale left, when Witt was coaching, when Casey left, when Flip handed over the keys.

None of this will change until a new owner takes over. Hopefully that comes sooner rather than later and hopefully it is not Flip's group. I could care less about relocation threats. I want competency. For once.

(Also, what in the hell is going on with the team's sale? It's getting weird.)

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