The Timberwolves were 15 months from their first training camp as an NBA expansion team when Billy McKinney was their first basketball hire in July 1988 as director of player personnel.
Then, on Aug. 28, Bill Musselman was hired as head coach. He would share personnel decisions with McKinney, and CEO Bob Stein would represent ownership in such discussions.
"As the honest answer, we made the mistake made by a lot of new owners in sports, and other new businesses," Stein said. "And that is to be hesitant to give one person complete control of your product — and your money — when you're not really certain of the path to success.
"We hadn't been in basketball, and the idea was, well, let's sort of do this by consensus at the start.''
I loved Musselman as a topic and chronicled him in many locales. Yet on Tuesday, I had to ask Stein: "Did you really feel consensus was possible with 'Muss' at the table?"
Stein laughed and said: "A person could always hope, couldn't he?"
There has never been a newcomer to a sports business more successful in hiring marketers and communicators than Stein. "I think over half of our first hires wound up running franchises in the NBA or other pro leagues,'' he said.
Great consensus in the boardroom, not in the basketball room.
McKinney was unhappy with his lack of authority and was gone one month into the second season. Asked about the Billy and Bill dynamic, Stein said at the time:
"You'd rather have everybody going to the movies together, eating popcorn and holding hands, but that's not reality.''
Musselman was fired at the end of that season. It took another year for Stein to find what he now wanted: A veteran general manager with a track record to take over basketball for a terrible team.
"We were thrilled when Jack McCloskey agreed to accept the job,'' Stein said. "He had a great résumé."
McCloskey (1992-95) was the first of six people to be given full control of the Wolves basketball operation. He was followed by Kevin McHale (1995-2008), David Kahn (2009-13), Flip Saunders (2013-15), Tom Thibodeau (2016-19) and Gersson Rosas (2019-21).
There also have been five interims with varied degrees of clout, the latest being Sachin Gupta. He was put in charge when Rosas was fired on Sept. 22, 2021, in a shock to most everyone not working in the Timberwolves offices.
Gupta was hopeful for the big job, but the influence of owners-to-be Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez led this week to hiring Tim Connelly away from his strong roster-building in Denver.
McCloskey was also an established exec when he took the job 30 years ago. He did so with advance notice the basketball gods had disdain for the Timberwolves.
I've always figured the franchise's misfortunes are punishment for allowing the Minneapolis Lakers, with Elgin Baylor in uniform and Jerry West about to be drafted, to leave for Los Angeles in the spring of 1960 with zero effort to keep them.
The deal was in June 1992, a 15-67 record made the Wolves a solid last in the standings, but the pingpong balls dealt them third in the lottery — low enough to miss Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, and wind up with the loutish, less-than-great Christian Laettner.
The one shining memory of McCloskey is the news conference introducing Isaiah Rider Jr., the fifth choice in the 1993 draft. Rider was hours late, and then with him sitting there, Sid Hartman started barking at McCloskey for not drafting Indiana's Calbert Cheaney (as Sid's pal Bobby Knight wanted). Soon, there were threats of an old-guy boxing match between the GM, 67, and Sid, then a mere 72 and still with quick feet.
"I wasn't there, but I wish I had been,'' Stein said Tuesday.
I was there, and remain eternally grateful.
That's only No. 2 on my cherished memories of Wolves' basketball bosses. No. 1 is when radio partner Phil Mackey and I were taping an interview with Kahn.
Asked what possibly could cause him to be optimistic over Michael Beasley in the season ahead, Kahn said: "He's a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana, and he has told me that he's not smoking anymore.''
That candor cost David a $50,000 fine from the NBA.
McHale had a good run and a bad end, and Thibodeau was done in by his guy Jimmy Butler, Rosas was 60-40 on personnel moves before getting himself fired, the Grim Reaper took Flip and crushed us all, and now the man from Denver shows up to accolades all around.
Good luck, sir, with a franchise that has a tremendous knack for avoiding it. The laughs, though … those are hard to beat.