David Kahn Gets Loose

Benjamin Polk —  July 25, 2010 — 20 Comments

Photo by Genvessel

So it turns out that David Kahn is not the scheming, Gekko-esque bromide-dispenser that he seemed to be. Despite appearances, and despite his frequent references to league-enforced propriety, Kahn seems to be pretty innocent of the politic non-speak that vibrates throughout most NBA front offices.  In a way, its disarming and refreshing to hear an NBA executive speak so openly and common-sensibly about things. Derrick Favors is out of shape? Sure looked like it to me. Michael Beasley is immature? Not really controversial. Chris Webber is “a schmuck”? Don’t hold back, dawg!

Then there’s tidbit on Beasley from Kahn’s now infamous KFAN interview:

He is growing up — he’s not grown-up. He’s 21 … and if you think back, as I do all the time, to when I was 21, and if you had given me this kind of money and put me in this kind of world with these kinds of pressures attached to it and some of the demands, I don’t know how well I would have handled it, any easier than, say, he has.

For the GM of an NBA team, this strikes me as totally reasonable, and maybe even a bit compassionate. But, of course, those aren’t the “inapropriate comments” that got Kahn and the Wolves fined $100 grand by the league. These are:

[Beasley] is a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me that he’s not smoking anymore, and I told him that I would trust him as long as that was the case.

Again, not your typical NBA front-office sound-byte, right? On one hand, you’ve gotta love the honesty. And the league’s fairly heavy penalty is fairly consistent with their schoolmarmish pandering to white, conservative, NBA-skeptical middle America (wherever that is) and whomever else might be both a fan of basketball and terrified at the possibility that some people smoke drugs.

On the other hand, if your employer ever talked about your drug use on the radio (which drug use was admitted to in a presumably private conversation), wouldn’t you kind of freak out? One has to wonder, not necessarily at the accuracy, but at the wisdom of, say, questioning the fitness of a prospective first-round draft pick. Or musing aloud upon the schmuckiness of a recently retired, heavily respected NBA legend. Or making it known that the extremely personal contents of private conversations with your players are not, after all, so private. I mean, is this someone you would want to work for?

Benjamin Polk

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20 responses to David Kahn Gets Loose

  1. while i agree that private convos should be just that private, it was public knowledge that Beas had gotten in trouble for smoking the ganja. So his comment wasn’t really a breach of trust as you imply but KAAAHN being the GM that has gain respect among the small Twloves fan base that is left.

  2. Kahn is being a straight up idiot- everything he said is exactly as you say: perfectly reasonable- but, he’s speaking in a professional capacity whenever he makes these statements-he’s not in his living room- and you can’t talk like that when you’re at work. I’ll be the first to admit I enjoy a good smoke, but I would never admit as much at work, or say that a co-worker does, and that doesn’t make me a hypocrite- a certain amount of professional discretion has to be observed or you force your employers to take action, when they probably really don’t care if you smoke a bit of pot- which seems to be the NBA’s stance. Kahn’s statements are not a big deal themselves, but they show a worryingly low level of awareness about what it means to run a professional basketball franchise. As you say, if I were Beasly, I would flip. If not made in complete confidence, one would assume that your boss would at least keep your admission of drug use a little closer to his chest, than say, announcing it on the radio! Kahn has turned the Wolves into a object of laughter for anyone who follows basketball closely. There’s a point at which an unorthodox style must just be considered a s–t style. Slow down.. Breathe.. Thinking about Kahn just puts me in the mood to tirade- I’m of a mind to make one of those viral Hitler-parody videos in which you insert fake subtitles for a Hitler rant.

  3. First of all, the comment that what Kahn said was “already public knowledge” is inaccurate. The fact that people assume some things about Beasley gives Kahn no right to confirm it with firsthand information. Yes, Beasley had a couple of marijuana-related incidents but that is VERY different from your boss acknowledging on radio you privately acknowledged a long-term issue that affected your performance. If you were caught shoplifting once does it make it okay for your doctor to breach his confidentiality obligations and disclose you are receiving treatment as a kleptomaniac? I don’t think so.

    Also, this is not a “stuffy white guy” issue. This is a “real world, practical legal and economic interests” issue that is equally common sense whether you are Black or White. The NBA prohibits team executives from disclosing private information it received regarding substance abuse issues from its players, because these people need to know if a guy is smoking (too much) weed – it’s all very well for a fan to say “dur, lots of people smoke weed what’s the big deal.” Well you know what? That’s your opinion, but it’s still illegal, getting caught can lead to serious consequences in terms of suspensions and legal problems, so if you’re paying somebody millions a year to perform on the court and be the very public faces of your organization, you might want to look into these things and decide for yourself whether you can live with it or not. In fact as the chief executive of the Wolves Kahn has a duty to order this kind of due diligence on behalf of the organization. However, to disclose such confidentially acquired information in public is a (completely pointless) breach of trust is counterproductive will chill future disclosures, which hurts the Wolves (who can trust Kahn?) the broader NBA (who can trust any of these White guys who ask you about your problems?). If players hide their issues how can teams help address them in even a constructive way? Kahn’s conduct is clearly detrimental to the interest of the owners AND players and serves no useful purpose. The league is not being patronizing in this instance, unless you think running any organization with a reasonable balance of interests between the privacy of individuals and efficiency of the business is patronizing White people behavior, in which case good luck to you in the real world.

    My college had a health clinic for students whether they could get condoms, even morning after pills, whether they would treat you for all kinds of stupid college student maladies (near alcohol poisoning, etc.) no questions asked. Do your readers who say “hey, Kahn was just saying what people assumed anyway” think the director of such a clinic should go on a nationally accessible radio show and list who came to the clinic and what they were there for? I’m sure he could argue “hey, it was no secret this kid was drinking/having sex anyway” but is that a reason for him to announce such information just to be a more entertaining radio show guest? I would be appalled if that were the case. Kahn talks about all the empathy he has for 21 year olds, but people who really have empathy for 21 year olds don’t blab about their youthful indiscretions as radio fodder.

    Kahn is not only a longtime executive but a licensed attorney who worked at one of the best law firms in the United States, Proskauer Rose. He SAID earlier on the same radio show something to the effect of “I probably shouldn’t talk about this because it’s confidential …” and then talked about it anyway. That isn’t refreshing, that isn’t candid,when you are oblivious to your professional training, executive experience and rules you yourself stated five minutes ago, that shows a disturbing lack of judgment and discretion.

  4. Mac, you’re right on the money. In retrospect, I ought to have pushed the point harder. I’m intrigued and occasionally disarmed (as with his patience with Beasley’s maturing process) by Kahn’s recent spate of unrestrained truth-telling. But clearly–with or without the NBA’s penalty–disclosing Beasley’s pot use is a major breach of confidence and hugely inappropriate. On many fronts, it was a seriously stupid and thoughtless thing to do.

    That said, while I’m sure that the league’s rule is in place partially to protect players from vindictive or careless employers, I also can’t help thinking that it also has to do with the pandering that I described. On the Modern Radio messageboard, my friend PA reported that when KSTP aired the story of Kahn’s comments, the sportscaster chimed in by saying “Gee, I’d never guess that an NBA player would be smoking pot.” It seems to me that the NBA can’t resist trying to appease this kind of casual, faux-populist racism. You see this in the dress code, in the banishment of hip-hop (or any other music that could be even remotely construed as “urban” or whatever the current euphemism is) from national telecasts, and in the attempt to suppress the fact that, like nearly half of all Americans, some NBA players smoke pot.

    Thanks for the great comment.

    bp

  5. Hi Ben, sorry I went off the deep end, but I take these things kind of seriously. Employee substance abuse, emotional wellness, family issues, physical illness – every employer takes the confidentiality of such matters very seriously. It should be well understood by anyone who owns a lawn mower distributorship, let alone the CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves, that it is important to get as much information as possible on employees struggling with such issues but on a strictly need to know basis, both for the company’s risk management and the individual’s personal welfare. That’s why I was absolutely flabbergasted at Kahn going on the radio and talking about Beasley’s private admissions to him about his pot smoking issues. We have joked plenty about Kahn being incompetent but this was a provably incompetent thing for Kahn to do as a matter of common law principles of confidentiality, employment law, and NBA rules.

    That being said, I fully agree that many of Stern’s efforts to deemphasize the fact that his players are, in fact, who they are, are indeed heavy-handed and distasteful. I’m not sure it extends to Kahn in this case, but I appreciate that the larger point was worth making.

    I am bemused by how Kahn thought he was “defending” Beasley. If that’s his idea of making a compelling case, I have to say as an advocate David Kahn = fail. I think David Dwork of Peninsula is Mightier summed up my own concerns nicely in a recent blog post:

    “What worries me for Beasley is that now he’ll be known as a pot smoker to his new fans in Minnesota, who don’t really know anything else about him. He should be thought of as a very recent 2nd overall pick who has a major upside and produced quite well during his first two years in the league, averaging 14.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. Instead, now Beasley could end up walking around his new town with the same dark cloud above his head as when he was in Miami, never living up to expectations and always fighting an uphill battle. I really hope that isn’t the case for Super Cool up in Minnesota, but his new team’s president has started things off in a very inauspicious way.”

  6. Guys, his pot use was not confidential. He checked into the NBA substance-abuse program for that very reason. This happened a long time ago, before Kahn made those comments.

    So explain how Kahn broke confidentiality?

  7. I think this was a VERY poor attempt, by Kahn, at trying to connect himself to his players. I think what he was going for, was to come across as someone who understands where a lot of these young, black, urban kids are coming from. That they make these mistakes, and that it’s just a part of the maturing process. But, Kahn being Kahn, he came across as a sheltered, intolerant, white hypocrite. And everyone saw right through his motives. His one and only mission, in that interview, was to be entertaining. But he did it at the expense of a guy who could possibly end up being his best player… It’s hard to say. But Beas has “underachieved” in his career, thus far, and still managed to put up really solid numbers.

    And real quickly- I just wanted to touch on something that a previous commenter said, “Also, this is not a “stuffy white guy” issue. This is a “real world, practical legal and economic interests” issue that is equally common sense whether you are Black or White.”… While I agree with the thought behind this statement, I disagree with the basic root idea. This IS a stuffy white guy issue. It is an issue of intolerance and ignorance. David Kahn has never hung out with his players. He never will. He doesn’t know the first thing about them. He did an interview with Beasley, to make sure that he wasn’t a serious threat to the dynamic (haha… sorry) of this team. But from this point forward, I doubt they will have lunch together. I doubt Beas is going to be taking Kahn back to the neighborhood he grew up in. And yet Kahn thinks that it is fine to (attempt to) portray himself, as someone who understands and accepts his players. I am sorry, but it is the cold hard truth… anywhere that someone is passing down a judgement like this, there is a “stuffy white man”, up the ladder somewhere, with his thumb firmly planted on the heads of his subordinates. Be it a GM, a Coach, or a Team or Company owner… there is always one. And then they want to cut educational funding to urban areas… so as to not allow any of these black kids to get in to any of those positions of power. But it is somehow their fault that smoking and ballin’ are the only things that they have. Perhaps because those are the only things that were are content to LET them have.

    And I apologize for the rant… I just hate to see anyone from a “fortunate” financial and/or social background try to up their public image, by pretending to sympathize with someone of a more challenged background. They don’t need your sympathy… and they sure as HELL don’t want it! They are where they are because they worked their ass off to get there. So if they want to have a smoke now and then to ease their minds and forget about all the hurdles they overcame in their lives… then that is their perogative!

  8. @Daniel,

    Beasley was checked into rehab for “substance abuse issues” and neither the Heat nor the league specified what those issues were, which is consistent with league confidentiality rules for non-repeat offenders (third strike or more). Everyone assumed the substance was pot because of the infamous twitter photo and his rookie orientation incident (and reasonably so), but it is not true that a public admission has been made by the league or his team on this issue. In any case, you seem to be confusing “confidentiality” with publicly known or assumed facts which are not the same thing. To use a simple example, let’s say OJ came to me as his lawyer and said “I killed my wife and her boyfriend” — that conversation is not “not confidential” because it is the general consensus he killed his wife and girlfriend and there is plenty of known circumstantial evidence to support this conclusion. *I* have an obligation to keep my mouth shut about what *I* was told, it’s not relevant what the rest of the world thinks it knows. Same rules apply to Kahn in this instance about any conversations he had with Beasley.

    @Andy

    You make excellent points. However, you seem to be confusing Kahn’s attempt to empathize with Beasley with the arguably paternalistic imposition of rules by David Stern, which is what Ben and I were talking about when referring to stuffy white men. I don’t disagree with anything you say, but I would respectfully posit that you can’t be disagreeing with my “basic root idea” when you are talking about something different to start with.

  9. Mac, the analogy between OJ and Beasley is a poor one. In this case we had documented evidence of Beasley of using pot and his checking into rehab for substance abuse issues which was identified as pot.

    If you’re going to use OJ as an example, this would be more like someone having a videotape of OJ killing Nicole and Ron Goldman that was circulated throughout the web, and reports that OJ was seeing a lawyer due to legal issues. If the lawyer then came out and said that they talked about the video, is that a case of breaking confidentiality? Again, why is it confidential to reveal something that has already been proven?

    To cite a more recent (and relevant) case, Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to jail for violating terms of her probation, which was related to drug and alcohol abuse. Her lawyers have since claimed that she admitted she used to be a party animal, made mistakes with drugs and alcohol, and has made an effort to comply with the terms of the probation. Is that a violation of confidentiality as well? Or is it just rehashing something everyone has known already for a very long time?

    Let’s use some common sense here.

  10. I’ve looked at archives of old news stories concerning Beasley. It confirms that his stay was related to his drug troubles and his incident during rookie orientation. Depression was also cited as a major factor.

    Kahn revealed no new information about Beasley’s past.

  11. @ Mac- You were correct… I really did only rebutt half of what your point was.

    @ Daniel – Both of the of the examples that you gave WOULD be breaches of confidentiality. What makes them so, is that the people who are relaying the information, are under sworn agreements to not repeat things that are told to them “in confidence”. There is absolutely no significance as to whether the info that is shared with them is common knowledge or not. Either way, they are sworn to protect it. And as Mac pointed out before, Kahn is an ex-lawyer… he, of anyone, should know all about confidentiality. But he doesn’t care. His only objective is to repair a self-image which has been obliterated by his own decision making.

    Which brings us all the way back to the original point… why does Kahn need to repeat Beasley’s business? That is the real issue here. It was simply an attempt to gain standing in the both the basketball community and the team’s fanbase. The man is an eel… and I can’t understand, for the life of me, why you would even waste your time defending him!

  12. @Andy,

    Could not agree with your more, and thank you for the clarification.

  13. God, I use to try to find the good in Kahn but now he’s gone outrageous… He’s kind of like the Lane Kiffin of the NBA. I don’t why he would go after Webber when he initiated the dumb response! Oh Kahn, silly little Gm you!

  14. One thing that most people overlooked as a result of all this hullabaloo is that when Webber and McHale initially asked Kahn what he had done to improve the Wolves since becoming President, Kahn replied that he had the players’ lounge remodeled and started having breakfast served to the players. I don’t know, I found that pretty funny for some reason, both the fact that McHale of all people was asking that question (kind of like Kim Jong Il asking President Obama “what have YOU done to improve the living conditions of your citizens, hmmm?”) and that Kahn’s response had nothing to do with personnel moves. If you asked Pat Riley “what have you done recently to improve the Miami Heat?” I doubt he would point to how he repaved the players’ parking area and started family movie nights for the players’ wives and kids. Just saying.

  15. @ Mac- LMFAO… that’s hilarious! Then again, I don’t think I have EVER heard Kahn actually answer a question in an even remotely straight forward way. Perhaps that is his lawyer background kicking in again…

  16. Don’t underestimate the importance of breakfast, arguably the most important meal of the day. Kahn has a lot of hungry point guards to feed. And you think Ricky Rubio will come without a top notch players lounge to entice him? I’m surprised Kahn didn’t invest in a Tapas Bar. Kahn couldn’t mention any personnel moves that he made that improved the team because he would’ve been laughed out of the studio by the sheer absurdity of any such notion.

  17. @B Love

    So you heard the interview too? Because while your post is hilarious, those are the actual points Kahn made. I am not joking. He said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, but he discovered (presumably in their exit interviews as he was booting them out the door, possibly to be re-acquired the following year) that players had been going without a team-supplied breakfast during the McHale regime, which he immediately pinpointed as a major reason they were crummy. Also, he said that it was really important to have a nice players lounge because that shows players your organization means business, and part of the reason he tried to bring in Rudy Gay and David Lee on campus was so they could see for themselves how nice the players lounge was, and spread the word.

    People who say “how can you make fun of Kahn?” Haven’t been following what he says closely enough. Setting aside his personnel moves, he says some pretty ridiculous things.

  18. Spanish nights at dinner…. Hmmmm, maybe that will entice Rubio to come!

    ____________________________________________

    http://www.amanraisedbywolves.blogspot.com/ <<< My blog on Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball

  19. Recent conversation between Kahn and Rubio caught on tape, exclusive to the A Wolf Among Wolves Bulletin Board!

    Kahn: Hi Ricky, how’s it going? It’s David Kahn.

    Ricky: Quien? Ah, si, el loco gringo presidente from the Meeneesota equipo. Again.

    Kahn: Gracias — that means thanks — I’m doing very well, thanks for asking. I got rid of all the other point guards except the one who is slower and whiter than you, just like you asked. We are all about building around you here!

    Rubio: Que tal Jonny Fleen? He still no es traded?

    Kahn: No, but good news! I think he may have a congenital hip condition like Bo Jackson so we may be able to force him to retire and reclaim his salary cap space as an injury exception.

    Rubio: Quien es this “Bo Jackson”? Too many point guards ees no bueno, but how is it good news that your, how do you say, lottery peek may be el busto so soon?

    Kahn (quickly changing the subject): By the way, I put in that tapas bar like you asked in the players lounge! Man that players lounge is so nice, I wish I could live there. I asked Kurt but he said that would be weird. Did I mention it’s got TWO TVs? We’ve already started “Fiesta Fridays” in your honor. Tacos, enchiladas, margaritas, you’ll feel right at home.

    Rubio: I am Spanish, no es Mexicano. Those are Mexican foods.

    Kahn (silent): oh, I see. But Michael Beasley’s been plowing through burritos like there’s no tomorrow, especially late at night, so I really hate to change the menu. Can we just keep things as is?

    Rubio (sighs): Seguro, seguro. (quietly) It doesn’t really matter what you do anyway.

    Kahn: Exactly, that’s the spirit! I’ve got big things planned for us in the next two years, just you wait and see.

    Rubio: you will sign Senor Melo? Maybe trade for mi amigo Marc Gasol?

    Kahn: No, I meant I’m going to upgrade the PA system in the Target Center, maybe add some mobile concession wagons like you see at malls to sell pretzels and stuff. Wait till you see it, if you had ever visited you’d barely even recognize the place! Hello? Hello? (hangs up) Must have lost the connection. But I can tell he’s really fired up, those were his most excited sighs yet. Oh crap I better hurry, I have to attend that press conference to announce that from now on I’m not directly communicating to the media.

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