5 Best Candidates to Replace Rick Adelman as Minnesota Timberwolves Coach

D.J. FosterContributor IApril 14, 2014

5 Best Candidates to Replace Rick Adelman as Minnesota Timberwolves Coach

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    Replacing a coaching legend like Rick Adelman won't be easy, but it sounds like that's the task the Minnesota Timberwolves will face this offseason. Here's ESPN.com's Marc Stein with more information on Adelman's likely departure:

    So the next big change with the Wolves, by all accounts, is far more likely to take place on the bench, amid increasing pessimism in the Twin Cities that Rick Adelman -- after trying to coach the last two seasons while nursing wife Mary Kay through a persistent illness -- will want to return for a fourth season in charge.

    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.

    Without Adelman and his signature corner offense, the Wolves are in for some big changes no matter who takes over. Because Kevin Love can opt out after next season, getting the right coach inserted and having instant success is going to be what takes precedent.

    For the sake of this exercise, we'll leave off some of the bigger names who have been out of the game for a while and may not be coming back soon, like Jeff and Stan Van Gundy and Larry Brown.

    While any of those three would be great options (and you can throw in retired coaches like Jerry Sloan as well), let's take a look at five of the most realistic and best candidates to take over as head coach in Minnesota this offseason.

Fred Hoiberg

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    Fred Hoiberg should be hotly recruited by many teams after the job he's done rebuilding the Iowa State program and all of his NBA experience, but perhaps he makes the most sense in Minnesota. Here's ESPN.com's Marc Stein with more:

    There is also another textbook candidate out there for Minnesota to chase with long-standing Wolves ties: Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. 

    Widely regarded as the most NBA-ready college coach in the game, Hoiberg was a Wolves executive for four years before leaving the pros to coach the Cyclones. It should be noted that Saunders is close with Michigan State's Tom Izzo, as well, but the rumbles out of Sota are getting louder that the Wolves are going to court Hoiberg hard if they, as expected, have an opening. 

    Hiring a former player and executive to man the sidelines doesn't seem like much of a stretch at all, especially because Hoiberg has proven himself at the college ranks. 

    There might be a few complications, however. Hoiberg received a 10-year coaching deal worth $20 million last year to continue coaching at his alma mater, and given the choppy nature of the NBA, he may be unwilling to give up such great long-term financial security to make the jump. 

    If Hoiberg is going to leave Iowa State, though, you'd have to imagine the team he spent so many years with would be a logical fit. 

Tom Izzo

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    Fred Hoiberg might be the top choice given all of his ties to the franchise and his youth (he's just 41 years old), but Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is certainly an intriguing option as well.

    While it's always incredibly unlikely that a long-tenured college coach who has stuck with one school for a while will leave, it might be worth a shot for Timberwolves team president Flip Saunders to recruit hard for such a legend of the game. 

    Here's what ESPN.com's Marc Stein told Grantland's Zach Lowe on a recent edition of Lowe's podcast, "The Lowe Post":

    "To me the natural fit is [Fred] Hoiberg," Stein said. "I think people will also say Tom Izzo because Izzo and Flip Saunders are close, but to me it's either one of two scenarios. Either Flip Saunders comes downstairs himself to go back on the bench...but you know, we haven't gotten any clear signals yet that that's what he wants to do. I think that was initially assumed when he first went to Minnesota. It wouldn't completely surprise me if he says, 'you know what, I'm going to stay in the front office and keep running the team as a president. If that's the case, then to me, it's an all-out play for Hoiberg."

    Based on what Stein says here, it seems as though Izzo might be a desired option, but still an unlikely one. That makes sense given what we've seen from college's top coaches over the years, especially ones who have been at it a long time like Izzo has.

    The fit might be a little shaky as well. While no one doubts Izzo's acumen, he is pretty demonstrative on the sidelines and definitely likes to get in his players' faces, which might not fly so well at the pro level. It would be interesting to see, no doubt, but Timberwolves fans probably shouldn't hold their breath.

Flip Saunders

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    Minnesota might not have to look externally if they are looking for a highly capable coach who can step in right away. Although Flip Saunders currently occupies an important role in the front office, he could come back as a head coach at least for a season in an effort to right the ship and get Love to stay.

    Although his teams didn't have a ton of success once they got there, Saunders did lead the Wolves to eight straight playoff appearances during the Kevin Garnett era. Saunders did a good job of maximizing some lackluster talent around his star, which wouldn't be all that dissimilar to what Minnesota faces now with Love. 

    Mostly though, he'd be tasked with making the pieces all fit together, which might be even tougher. No one would blame Saunders if he wanted to stay away from the sidelines, however, especially because his last coaching stint with the Washington Wizards was such a disaster.

    If the Wolves can't get a few of the candidates at the very top of their list, however, perhaps Saunders will be ready to give it another shot.

David Blatt

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    While there should be great coaches from the college ranks and from coaches currently out of the league, David Blatt would probably be the best international hire. Here's ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz with more:

    Blatt’s American upbringing and playing career at Princeton under Pete Carril make him a logical trailblazer should an NBA team want to take the plunge. (...)

    “[Blatt] would want some authorship of the roster and a seat at the table,” says a member of an NBA front office who keeps a close watch on Europe. “Mike D’Antoni is the analog.”

    D’Antoni was the last real import, and no NBA team has expressed public interest in a coaching candidate from Europe recently. Still, the prospect of a mind like Blatt’s taking the reins of an NBA team is a fascinating thought exercise. Given Blatt's body of work, characterizing such a hire a risk would be silly.

    Blatt has led the Russian national team over the years to many impressive finishes in international play, and he's been plenty successful for Maccabi Tel Aviv lately as well. Although he's never coached in the NBA, his style would seem to transfer well to the pro game. Blatt is considered to be an excellent game manager, which is a big part of the job at this level.

    This would definitely be thinking outside of the box, but it might be worth exploring. With two overseas stars in Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic already highlighting the roster, perhaps a coach who has made a name for himself internationally wouldn't be much of a leap at all.

George Karl

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    If the goal really is to make the playoffs and bring in a coach with some serious name value to appease Kevin Love, there might not be a better fit than George Karl.

    After all, Karl was named NBA Coach of the Year just last season, and his proven track record of regular-season success should carry lots of weight for an organization just looking to get back in the playoff picture at this point.

    Karl isn't without his flaws, but he's always found a way to field dynamic offenses, even if the talent wasn't always great. While Minnesota wouldn't be able to fly around the court like Karl's Nuggets teams did, he's still shown a unique ability to cater his game plan to the type of players he's working with. It's easy to believe Karl could turn an incredible distributor like Ricky Rubio and a dominant scorer and rebounder like Kevin Love into one of the league's deadliest combinations. 

    While Karl might not have the shine some other coaches do considering the way Denver dumped him, he's the most accomplished NBA coach on this list and probably the best candidate who seems realistically available for multiple teams. This would be a great get by Minnesota.