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Penn Slapped


Seriously? What's next?  Is Glen Taylor going to head on down to the Children's Hospital and sing songs to the sick tots about how Santa Claus isn't real or tell them that while on the way to the gig he backed over the Easter Bunny with his pickup?  Perhaps he will simply hang out down on the corner in front of the Pantages theater offering up $100 bills to random strangers only to rip up the Benjamin in front of their faces in a fit of manic laughter.  I'm not really sure what this damn team can do at this point to kick its fans in the face any harder.  As you may have noticed by skimming down the page, we already had measured the drapes for Tom Penn's office.  Here's a tidbit from my pre-written wrap-up post that will forever remain in the draft box:

Like it or not, this is Taylor's toy and the collaborative approach has worked fairly well since the KG trade.  Penn is a hire that addresses a significant need while fitting into the operational culture (for better or worse) that Taylor prefers.  Dennis Lindsey and Randy Pfund were simply out of his comfort zone.  This is what it is and I will once again refer any disagreement to the fact that this hire effectively ends the Kevin McHale front office era.  It's an outside hire from a winning organization on the cutting edge of modern NBA management.  The guy is comfortable working in a collaborative setting.  We can wish otherwise until the cows come home but ultimately, and with the factors of the current off season and owner's temperament taken into account, this is as good as it's going to get, and that, for fans who have had to watch the train wreck for far too long, is a good thing.  This is as blown-up as it's going to get for the conservative business owner from Mankato.  Hats off to Papa Glen for the solid move and here's hoping for the best moving forward.

We even had a reader send in an accompanying picture:


This was supposed to be it and they blew it.  I don't give one red ass cent (is that even a saying?) about what Penn got from Paul Allen to stick around in Portland.  Whatever it is, Taylor should have matched it and then some.  Here was a candidate who a) was comfortable working in a collaborative setting, b) was willing to stomach Kevin McHale as coach, c) wasn't going to blow everything up, and d) addressed the long-standing and glaring front office need for creativity with the CBA...and they let him walk.  The other guys walked because they couldn't have complete control.  This guy walked because he was everything the team wanted (and needed) and Taylor wouldn't cut the check.  As for the being outbid by Paul Allen nonsense, both Allen and Taylor are billionaires and we're talking about an annual salary that is likely well below $2 million in a multi-million dollar organization.  We're talking about a franchise that had already been rebuffed twice, in public, by two previous candidates.  You. Pay. The. Man. 

Poor Dick put it very well in the comments section on the previous FanPost:

Think about what we believe he is telling prospective candidates:

1. You will work with Hoiberg on roster moves
2. You can’t clean house in the front office
3. Kevin McHale will decide if he wants to be the head coach or not—not you
4. I really don’t want to spend a whole lot of money to sign free agents or acquire quality veterans

With that in mind, I’m surprised the negotiations with optimal candidates got as far as they did.

Despite all of that nonsense, they had a talented guy who was willing to come aboard.  Seriously. Despite asking for things which are, on their face, completely insane in terms of management and business operations, the guy was going to take the job and they didn't pay to keep him.

Now, I'm of two minds about this entire situation.  On one hand, my brain is telling me that this was to be expected (from all the way back in January):

Hoopus Prediction:

Kevin McHale will remain at the head of the bench and Ron/Fred/Jim will man the front office with input from the head coach.  The Pat Reusse conspiracy theory here is that as long as McHale is employed by this club he will have the last say on personnel matters.  I think it is clear that those days are over.  Papa Glen kicked McHale out of the front office and told him (explicitly or not) to coach or else.  This year's draft is very important and bringing in a new GM would raise numerous schedule and logistical challenges.  There is something to be said about continuity, even in down times. 

Hoopus Prescription:

If the Wolves continue improving both their record and personnel development Kevin McHale should be retained and the front office trio should be allowed to operate throughout the draft and free agency provided that McHale's role is reduced to that of what Minnesota coaches have enjoyed in the past.  If McHale is going to atone for what he did to Dwane Casey, then he should be treated like Mr. Casey when it comes to the duties of his old job.  We have talked about bringing in a real GM quite a bit here at Hoopus but if pressed to make an actual change, the twin constraints of time and continuity make a practical change in this particular off-season (which just happens to be the most important off-season in team history; a make-or-break culmination of both the KG and Mayo trades) a tough proposition.  Like it or not this is the crew that is going to see this thing through and that fact will not change.  The time to make the change was at the firing of Witt.  It didn't happen and this group, for better or worse, is what fans will have to deal with this off-season.

On the other hand, the way in which this search has unfolded has led me to believe that the team is being run by a ship full of boobs and that no matter how much wishful thinking I may have about their current assets, their future success is 100%  dependent on random success, otherwise known as stupidity gone wild

The really sad part about all of this is that this latest bit of nincompoopery transcends basketball boundaries.  By being so absurd, it goes beyond notice in the sports pages and into the minds of people who either don't care about the team or are simply casual fans.  The message is not ambiguous; it is a loud and clear signal that Glen Taylor cares more about Kevin McHale than he does about the fans of his team.  He would rather deal with the baggage and up-is-down cracktastickness of a losing status quo than hand over control to a guy who would tell him with a memo or meeting what fans will with their wallets: that the future of this organization should not revolve around Kevin McHale and Fred Hoiberg.

Let's finish this thing up with a quick look at where the Wolves now find themselves.  Tomorrow they will send Kevin Love to the Draft Lottery because they do not have someone in charge of Basketball Operations.  You read that correctly: A "professional" basketball organization is only sending a player to the festivities because they don't have the necessary personnel to...well, do we even know if the Wolves will have a representative in the back room when the number combos are drawn?  This team is 5 weeks away from the Draft.  They don't have anyone running the ship.  They are now being turned down for this position on a weekly basis.   What on earth is going on over at 600 First Avenue?  Here's hoping it has something to do with Sam Hinkie.

More later.

BTW: At this point, we here at Hoopus would like to one-up Bill Simmons' egotastic offer.  We will run the team's personnel operation with a collective BasketWiki that will promote fan interest and interaction.  We won't complain about McHale one bit.  We will come on the cheap.  We will do it for $40,000-50,000 and a 4% match on our 401k.  Informed fans will get to vote on, scout, and opine on which players should come and go.  You will be the first interactive franchise and you will get to keep your precious 86 Celtic.  It's a win-win for everyone.  Get-r-done.

BTBTW: While our Wiki offer is 1/2 done in jest, and while we are leaning towards this situation being the result of absolute boobery, this thing still could (theoretically) have a positive ending with someone like Hinkie or Lance Blanks taking the offer.  This team needs someone with outside eyes from a winning organization who can deal with the CBA and manage the team's considerable assets.  The problem with the "don't panic" approach is that this whole operation seems to be run by a bunch of drunken Keystone Cops.  We all sort of know in the back of our heads where this thing ends up: With Hoiberg as GM and McHale as coach.  The boobery comes from expecting that a new guy would be down with keeping that much absurdity around.  When some poor schmo finally said yes, they didn't pay him enough to stick around.  Hoiberg/McHcale 2009 here we come.

UPDATE: Jianfu makes an excellent point in the previous FanShot's comment section:

I’ll reiterate my belief that so long as Taylor’s hiring a GM to predominantly act as a cap guy, and force the candidate to retain the rest of the team’s management structure, then he may as well find a bored lawyer/economist who’s also a sports fan. Try to find a Tom Penn before he’s Tom Penn.

If he wants a promising assistant GM, then Taylor’s probably got to be willing to let go of the Country Club. I know Penn was on board and all that, but in the end coming to Minny likely was a lateral move for him (for the most part), and therefore it was rather easy for the Blazers to just give him a raise to stay. If the Wolves offer included fullblown honest-to-pete GM priviledges, then even if the Blazers offered a raise, a new title, a better parking space, or whatever, it wouldn’t be enough to stop him from coming to Minnesota. Because if he’s as ambitious as our Blazer fan friends are saying, Penn would figure “why go back when I can be Minny’s Kevin Pritchard?”

Taylor wants to have it both ways on this one.  Ultimately, it will cost him and the fans....everyone but McHale.

UPDATE: Here's an edited version of a comment I left below the fold.  I think it's the best way I can explain exactly what is wrong with the current GM search:

The Wolves are in the market for some sort of device that will get them from Point A to Point B. They want certain characteristics in this device and they are very specific about them. However, the problem is not that they have a good idea about what they want or that there may be some historical precedent for what they want; the problem is that they are in a car dealership trying to buy a bike. Either stop looking for a bike or go to a bike shop. Those are the options right now. They can stop pretending that the types of conditions being attached to this position do not substantially limit the field or they can change the types of conditions being attached to the position. That’s it. Until they do so, they will either get turned down (“You want to buy a what…here?) or a less-than-optimal candidate (”Yeah, sure…I’ll sell you that."). I completely get where Taylor is coming from on the collaborative approach. It’s actually worked pretty well since the KG trade and it is working in other places like Portland (where he was smartly looking). That’s to his credit. What is not to his credit is being unrealistic about the current market for this type of service. That’s where all the boobery comes into play. There is a price to be paid for this type of service and it costs a specific amount of responsibility and money.