By JON KRAWCZYNSKI, Associated Press
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Glen Taylor is the biggest reason the Timberwolves are still in Minnesota, having saved the team from moving to New Orleans when he swooped in and bought the franchise in 1994.
Now, as the 71-year-old Mankato billionaire contemplates the eventual day when he wants to walk away, he is trying to take steps to ensure that the team stays in his home state for the long haul.
Taylor told The Associated Press on Friday that he is looking to add a minority partner who could buy a part of the team that includes an option to buy out Taylor after spending a few years by his side.
Taylor said he has yet to speak to any specific candidates, but made it clear that one of the biggest priorities for him will be a commitment to keeping the Wolves in Minnesota.
"I could find somebody to buy the team. That's not my problem," Taylor said at his office at Taylor Corp., a privately held printing and marketing giant. "I have to find someone that's committed to here. It's always best if it would be a Minnesotan. I'm telling you I don't know that's the way it's going to work out. I haven't had a lot of Minnesotans step up."
Taylor isn't looking to turn over the reins anytime soon. He is determined to see his improving team get back to relevance after several years in the Western Conference basement and said he is urging team president David Kahn to be aggressive this summer to bolster the lineup around a solid core.
But after nearly two decades as the owner of the Wolves, Taylor thinks the timing is right to open a search for a potential successor.
As chairman of the NBA's Board of Governors, Taylor played a prominent role in negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement that, if neither side chooses to opt out early, would bring labor peace to the league for the next 10 years. The Timberwolves are also hoping state lawmakers next week approve a plan for a massive renovation of Target Center that would make it more attractive for fans and more profitable for a new potential owner.
"Now's the time to do it," Taylor said. "We've negotiated the CBA for 10 years so people can see what the finances are. I think if I could get the building thing taken care of, that would enhance it for somebody coming in. So I can see if I got myself through a bunch of the problem stuff, I think I can bring in a partner."
Bringing someone in would help solidify the franchise. Taylor has had a few health issues in the past, but said he's feeling strong and healthy these days and thinks "it's in the best interest of Minnesota" to have a succession plan in place for some time down the road.
"If something would happen to me in the sense of illness or if I die, then something's in place," Taylor said. "I have let that be known and I'm going to talk to some people about that."
His passion and loyalty remains, and he wants more than ever for the team to be competitive again. The Wolves haven't made the playoffs since their stirring run to the conference finals in 2004, but showed signs of turning the corner before this season was derailed by injuries.
Taylor brought in coach Rick Adelman last offseason, Kevin Love emerged as one of the league's top young players and Ricky Rubio energized the franchise before tearing ligaments in his left knee in March. Fans rallied around the once forgotten team, too, selling out Target Center 11 times last season.
Knowing that he won't own the Wolves forever, Taylor is tired of going through rebuilding seasons. He says it's time to win. Now.
"It has a factor of age," Taylor said. "I want to get on with it and win, also. I think that's a legitimate question. That's where you are in your career and you want to get there. I think that's just another element that reinforces that I'm serious when I say I want a good team put together. And the reason is part of it is personal."
Taylor sees some similarities between himself and Adelman, who will turn 66 in June and didn't take this job to go through a rebuilding project. Taylor said it's a different situation with Adelman than Kurt Rambis, who was hired three years ago to oversee a long-term overhaul of the roster.
"You brought in a really good coach whose age dictates that he isn't thinking of 10 years of coaching," Taylor said. "I don't know what he's thinking, but it's probably more in the range of five or less, and in those years he wants to win and has the ability to win. So I think there's more pressure on you to put together a winning team."
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