For the second time in his three years as president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn is heading into an important NBA draft without a coach by his side.
Kahn has yet to announce a decision on Kurt Rambis and the coach won't be on hand Thursday night at the draft when the team holds the No. 2 pick -- the highest in franchise history.
Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday night that Kahn planned to fire Rambis sometime after the draft and was already gathering information on potential replacements. Kahn didn't return messages left by The Associated Press and a team spokesman said, "We're not going to comment on speculation."
They also have the 20th pick in the first round and could have several scenarios to consider in what is expected to be a wide-open and eventful draft night.
The Wolves could stay at No. 2, where they likely will have their choice between Arizona forward Derrick Williams or Turkish center Enes Kanter. They could trade the pick in an effort to get a veteran to add to the youngest team in the league, or they could swap it to move down and take a different rookie.
But it doesn't appear that Kahn will be bouncing any of those ideas off of Rambis. He said on Tuesday that he wanted to meet with owner Glen Taylor before making a decision on the coach's future after a season that ended with a 15-game losing streak.
The fact that Rambis will be some 2,000 miles away at his home in Los Angeles on one of the most important nights of the year for a rebuilding franchise would seem to be an ominous sign. But Kahn said taking that view would be "overthinking" it.
It wouldn't come as a surprise if Kahn does decide to part ways with Rambis. The two butted heads as the team limped to the finish line and Kahn refused to give Rambis a vote of confidence at the end of the season. He said he wanted to take his time to make a decision, and asked Rambis to write a report on the team that the two discussed at length last week.
Not having a coach firmly in place won't exactly be unique on Thursday. The Detroit Pistons have an opening and the Indiana Pacers still have not declared whether Frank Vogel is the permanent successor to Jim O'Brien.
The situation is similar to Kahn's first year on the job in 2009, when he was hired in May and didn't feel he had enough time to get acclimated to his new job, prepare for the draft and conduct a thorough coaching search at the same time.
Kahn drafted point guards Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn back-to-back at Nos. 5 and 6 and took guard Wayne Ellington at No. 28. Rubio finally landed in the United States this week after playing the last two years in Spain, Flynn doesn't appear to fit Rambis's offensive system and Ellington has been a serviceable player off the bench.
The Wolves are coming off an NBA-worst 17-65 season and have a dire need for veteran leadership. They are fielding offers for the second pick, hoping to land an established center or shooting guard to balance their roster, but Kahn likes his core with Rubio, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson.
"You cannot keep switching out," Kahn said. "It won't work. Not in our sport. I like a lot of these players a lot. Not a little, a lot. They're very young. They are raw. They need to develop. They need to become who they'll be. But from a talent basis, we have a nice mix. Question is how do we sprinkle in the veteran experience to help there?"
If they can't make a deal, they'll stay at No. 2 and see what happens with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving expected to go No. 1 to Cleveland.
Williams is widely considered the next best player, but his skills are similar to those of Beasley and Johnson. The three of them have been working out together in Los Angeles this summer, and Williams doesn't see an issue.
"Either way it's going to be a mismatch if we're all on the court at the same time," Williams said.
With a team that is coming off such a poor season, assistant GM Tony Ronzone said they need as much talent as they can get, regardless of position.
"The bottom line, with where we're at, you take the best player available and you just can't pass up on guys and try to get creative," Ronzone said. "(Williams is) someone we've got to look at very strongly at that spot. He's a talent. He can play."
If the Cavs take Williams, Kahn said the Wolves will take Irving. With Rubio already the point guard of the future, the Wolves would then likely trade Irving.
The other option if they stay put is Kanter, the big man who did not play last season after being ruled ineligible at Kentucky. Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic were underwhelming last year at center for the Wolves, and Kanter's size and raw offensive talent are intriguing.
"There's mystery. There always is this time of year," Kahn said. "Maybe if we were number one in a year where it's a Dwight Howard year, then there would be no mystery. But I think inevitably, you're never sure until you're sure, so there's mystery still. I think we have options in front of us and we still discuss those internally."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)