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Timberwolves fire Wittman

McHale steps down as VP to take coaching reins

By Jon Krawczynski
Associated Press / December 9, 2008
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MINNEAPOLIS - When Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor fired Randy Wittman yesterday and asked Kevin McHale to step in, he didn't just make a coaching change.

Taylor changed the entire complexion of an organizational structure that has featured McHale at the top of the totem pole for the last 13 years.

Not only did Taylor ask McHale to take over as coach of a young, confidence-strapped team, but he also relieved McHale of the vice president of basketball operations title he has held since 1995.

"There are a few people in this league who have taken on roles where they've been coaches and general managers, but I think that's a very difficult thing," Taylor said. "I just want it to be very clear when I said to Kevin that I am offering him the coaching job, that this is a full-time coaching job. He is to concentrate on it 100 percent. That's the commitment he gave me and I'm confident that's what's best for this team."

McHale said he sees the coaching job not on an interim basis but as a "long-term commitment." General manager Jim Stack and assistant GMs Fred Hoiberg and Rob Babcock will take over his executive duties.

McHale will remain involved in the decision-making process and seems satisfied with his new role.

"We'll all talk and go over decisions and everything else," McHale said of the new hierarchy. "It's just that, with the full-time coaching, it's just hard to assume both mantles on that. For me, I'm going to jump in with both feet on this."

It was an interesting twist to news that was expected after the Timberwolves (4-15) were embarrassed in a home loss to the Clippers Saturday night that McHale called "unacceptable."

This was the fourth NBA coaching firing this season, following P.J. Carlesimo (Oklahoma City), Eddie Jordan (Washington), and Sam Mitchell (Toronto).

Wittman was 38-105 since taking over for Dwane Casey in January 2007. He went 22-60 last year, his only full season in charge. The Timberwolves have lost their last two games by a combined 52 points.

McHale has done this before. He went 19-12 in the final 31 games of the 2004-05 season after Flip Saunders was fired.

"Last time I knew I was going to do it for the short term," McHale said. "This time I'm doing it for the long term. That's just the way it is."

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