From Daily Bruin to Timberwolves
Published Jan 26, 2010 4:21 PM
Just moments into an interview, Minnesota Timberwolves President David Kahn '83 asks a reporter to "hang on a second, Al Jefferson just walked up and I need to talk to him for 15 seconds." Just 29 seconds later, Kahn returns, seeming satisfied with whatever the Wolves star forward had to say.
Earlier in his career, it was Kahn left on hold while NBA executives chatted up their stars. After two years as sports editor of the Daily Bruin, he embarked on a journalism career, covering the NBA for his hometown Portland Oregonian; later joining NBC's "NBA Showtime," where he worked with Bob Costas and Pat Riley. Kahn, though, was already planning his transition to sports management. "I felt after meeting the people doing it, it was perhaps something I was capable of doing myself."
That belief, coupled with the incompatible-with-a-young-family travel grind of NBA reporting, led Kahn to NYU Law School. "I never intended to practice law," he says. Rather law school was the path to "working in the front office."
Kahn then spent nine years working in the front office for the Indiana Pacers (among his accomplishments was heading up the design and development of Conseco Fieldhouse — and yes, he's since been consulted by UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero regarding the renovation of Pauley Pavilion). He later owned several teams in the NBA's Developmental League. In May '09, he assumed his current role with the T-Wolves.
It's been an eventful few months in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Kahn fired Minnesota head coach Kevin McHale (a move announced via Twitter by the Timberwolves' player and former Bruin Kevin Love before it was publicly announced). In June, Kahn selected a pair of point guards in the NBA draft, one of whom — Ricky Rubio — is likely to remain in Spain for several seasons before ever playing in the States. More recently, Kahn hired Lakers-icon/assistant coach Kurt Rambis as head coach.
"It won't always be this busy," said Kahn, alluding to the rebuilding plan he's implemented. "but it will be for the next 14 months. We want to add the right pieces to make a championship run and it's going to take a lot of moves." The Timberwolves, Kahn explained, will have as many as three additional first-round picks next year and the team expects to have room under the salary cap to add free agents.
Already, Kahn has faced media criticism, particularly for taking two point guards back to back in the draft. Not too long ago, he was the media, rendering criticism. "Of course, I've been on both sides," he acknowledged. "But there is a huge difference from when I was writing. Today there is a 24/7 news cycle. If you spend all your time reacting to what's written or discussed, you can drive yourself crazy."
Kahn's UCLA connection remains strong. He regularly crosses paths, for example, with former UCLA coach Larry Brown (now head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats) and Brown's UCLA assistant Kevin O'Connor (now general manager of the Utah Jazz), both of whom he wrote about in his student days for the DB.
"A few weeks ago I happened to be working on a Saturday and I had one of our interns find the UCLA-San Diego State game on the satellite," Kahn said. "UCLA is the only team I will ever root for, at any level, in any sport."