Update, March 28, 7:05 p.m. PT:
#Twolves coach Rick Adelman said he hadn't heard of ESPN report saying he's expected to leave at end of season.— Andy Greder (@twolvesnow) March 28, 2014
#Twolves Adelman on ESPN report: "I have no idea. ... There are lots of experts. A lot of reports, lot of channels, I don't watch them all."— Andy Greder (@twolvesnow) March 28, 2014
The Minnesota Timberwolves might be on the verge of losing a coaching legend and replacing him with a mayor.
"The Mayor," rather.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, current coach Rick Adelman might opt out of the final year on his contract over the offseason. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, who spent time as both a player and executive in Minnesota, has emerged as a top candidate to fill that void.
Adelman nearly walked away last offseason and, according to sources close to the situation, has convinced more than a few folks in team circles that he's going to invoke his right to opt out of the final year of his original four-year contract and step away for good this summer.
Adelman has spent the last two seasons trying to balance his roles as a coach and husband while his wife, Mary Kay, has been battling an illness. The coach missed 11 games last January as she struggled with seizures and was absent from the team's 107-89 loss to the Houston Rockets on February 10 to be at her side.
"My wife had a little step, had a little problem, and that was it," Adelman told Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in February. "We are just taking it day by day. It's fine. I just had to take care of it."
That day-by-day approach has to be mentally draining—never mind the emotional effects of the illness—and it appears the 67-year-old coach might be reaching his breaking point.
Should Adelman decide to depart over the summer, Stein suggests that the Wolves have "two natural courses" to take.
The first would be bringing down part-owner and team president Flip Saunders from the executive suite to the coaching box. However, Stein notes that "there have been no clear-cut signals" that the former coach is ready to make that move.
Saunders could be a candidate himself, but it sounds like he'd rather chase one instead.
Hoiberg, Stein writes, is "widely regarded as the most NBA-ready college coach in the game." Despite the fact that Adelman has yet to vacate his position, Stein reports, "the rumbles out of Sota are getting louder that the Wolves are going to court Hoiberg hard if they, as expected, have an opening."
Hoiberg spent the last two seasons of his 10-year playing career in Minnesota, where he officially retired in 2006 after undergoing heart surgery the previous summer.
He spent the next four seasons in the team's front office before accepting the head coaching job at his alma mater, Iowa State, in April 2010.
He's guided the Cyclones to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. This season has been his best in terms of winning percentage (.800) and postseason success (Big 12 tournament title, two March Madness wins and counting).
The coach has already received two contract extensions during his tenure. His original five-year, $4.5 million deal was replaced by an eight-year, $12 million contract in 2012. Last summer, he received a 10-year, $20 million extension—another indication of how badly the college hopes to keep the Ames, Iowa, native in his hometown.
Of course, this decision isn't Iowa State's to make. It belongs to Hoiberg, who Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune reports has not surprisingly kept his plans quiet:
Hoiberg got asked about the (not yet vacant) T-Wolves job today: "I got one focus right now and that’s to go out and prepare this team..."— Travis Hines (@TravisHines21) March 25, 2014
That's pretty common coach speak, particularly considering this is someone currently employed being asked about a position that isn't officially open.
"So this at least bears revisiting, we would imagine, once both teams' seasons end."
Hoiberg cont.: "...to the best of its abilities.Hopefully we’ve got a long road ahead of us here with a couple weeks to go in the season..."— Travis Hines (@TravisHines21) March 25, 2014
That initial domino has to drop first before anything happens. Adelman has considered stepping away before, so it's wise to hold judgment until he makes the move official.
If that occurs, it's anyone's guess as to what comes next.
Hoiberg has a history in both places. Only he knows how tempting an NBA leap might be.
If there is anything close to a certainty with this story, it's that the rising coaching star will likely have another raise coming his way—from his current employer or his former one.