MINNEAPOLIS – David Kahn is returning as president of the Minnesota Timberwolves next season. The prospects for Kurt Rambis returning as coach aren't nearly as promising.
Kahn said Wednesday that owner Glen Taylor has assured him he will return next season. But Kahn declined to discuss Rambis' status on the same day the Timberwolves wrapped up another lousy season, and there appears to be a growing rift between the two most important decision-makers in the organization.
"This isn't the right time to make decisions," Kahn said Wednesday morning. "We've been in the midst of a season and I've been watching every game carefully, many of the practices, and we need to talk over the next several weeks, month, who knows?
"This isn't the right time. It's a very emotional time whenever you're playing. There's no timetable or no pressure for us to do something right now."
Rambis is 32-132 in his first two seasons and the Wolves finished an NBA-worst 17-65. By the time Rambis rebutted Kahn's comments a few hours later, the tension was noticeable.
"I have a contract and I just work under those guidelines," Rambis before the team faced Houston. "Until somebody tells me differently that's how I'll be approaching everything."
Kahn lamented the lack of improvement from the beginning of the season to the end.
The youngest team in the league showed signs of progress, winning four of its first 13 games and taking heavyweights San Antonio (twice), Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers to the wire before losing close games.
"I felt the team was playing well and I felt the team was improving, Kahn said. "And I felt we had some players that were improving dramatically individually. And then for whatever reason, tracing back to the week before the All-Star break and the week after the All-Star break, it just stopped. And I don't know why."
The Wolves have won just four times in the last two months, with the same old problems each time — turnovers, poor shot selection and atrocious defense. In their last two games, the Wolves allowed Denver's Ty Lawson to hit 10 3-pointers and Phoenix's Channing Frye to make nine.
The second-half slide is similar to last season, when the team went 2-28 in its final 30 games.
"This is a very different team than we had a year ago, but this is two years in a row where, for whatever reason, the team didn't improve as the season wore on," Kahn said. "I think you can make a fair argument that a young team probably should show even more team improvement as the season winds down than an older team."
That doesn't sound good for Rambis, who left his role as Phil Jackson's top assistant with the Lakers two years ago to take over a massive rebuilding project. Rambis was given a four-year contract, a show of confidence from Taylor that he would be given time to get things turned around.
"The talent level is here," Rambis said. "But you don't have the sort of turmoil that we've had in terms of the turnover from last year and the disruptive factor from the number of new guys we've added last year to the number of new guys we added this year. In a lot of ways that's what an expansion franchise does. ... Guys learning how to play with each other, it takes time."
Kahn applauded Rambis's work developing several players, Kevin Love in particular. Love earned his first All-Star bid this season and leads the NBA in rebounding. Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic also have shown flashes of the potential that scouts once saw in them, but inconsistency and the league's worst defense have kept the Timberwolves from turning the corner.
Several players have come to Rambis's defense over the last few weeks, saying the roster turnover made things difficult for him to instill his system. But Love, Rambis's star pupil, was lukewarm in his assessment on Wednesday night.
"I just want to start winning," Love said. "Whether that's with the coach we have now or a new coach, I just want to start winning now."
Other topics Kahn broached during a 40-minute recap of the season:
— Jonny Flynn's future: The second-year point guard struggled mightily this season and never recovered from missing training camp and the first two months of the season with a hip injury. Kahn said Flynn's relationship with Rambis, which got off to a poor start in his rookie season, was repaired last spring, but "one thing led to another and it just fell apart again."
Asked if Flynn had a future in Minnesota, Kahn said, "I don't know. That's my honest answer. I don't know."
— Ricky Rubio: Kahn declined to discuss Rubio's future in Minnesota, saying the two parties have agreed not to speak publicly on it until their seasons have concluded. Kahn has said in the past he expects Rubio to join the team from Spain next season. He also said that he has been pleased with his progress, and said Rubio's statistics in Spain were misleading because of the differences in the European game.
— Love: He is due to become a restricted free agent after next season, but Kahn said he isn't worried about re-signing him. "I think Kevin wants to be here," Kahn said. "We want to have him here."