Timberwolves Head Coach Search: Latest News and Rumors on Vacant Position

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

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Updates from Thursday, June 5

According to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press, the Timberwolves have picked a head coach:

Marc Stein of ESPN confirmed the reports:

Updates from Friday, May 30

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has the latest on Vinny Del Negro's candidacy in Minnesota:

According to two NBA sources, Del Negro interviewed with Wolves president of Flip Saunders on May 21 in Cleveland, one day before he interviewed Memphis coach Dave Joerger in a fleeting courtship that ended Sunday when Joerger said he was staying put.

Reports by ESPN.com and Yahoo!Sports suggested Del Negro has emerged as a front-runner for the job, but one of the league sources with knowledge of the search said it’s unlikely Del Negro will be hired.

Updates from Thursday, May 29

ESPN's Marc Stein has the latest on the T-Wolves' coaching hunt:

Updates from Sunday, May 25

David Aldridge of TNT passed along a major development in Minnesota's efforts to land Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger:

Updates from Saturday, May 24

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Minnesota Timberwolves are making progress with Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger:

Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski has more on Joerger:

Updates from Thursday, May 22

ESPN's Marc Stein has the latest on the T-Wolves' coaching hunt:

Updates from Sunday, May 18

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports a former coach is emerging as the favorite to fill the Timberwolves' vacant head-coaching position:

As the Minnesota Timberwolves consider the future of All-Star forward Kevin Love, Sam Mitchell has emerged as a serious candidate for the franchise's head coaching job, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Mitchell left a good impression with Wolves president Flip Saunders in a recent meeting and has moved himself into consideration for the job, league sources said.

Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune also provided insight surrounding other potential candidates and former head coaches linked to the Timberwolves:

Gleaned from conversations with league executives and agents at last week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago, this much is known so far about Saunders’ shadowy maneuverings:

• He interviewed former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins for the job approaching three weeks ago now but has proceeded no further with a candidate now in the running for the Cleveland opening.

• He kicked the tires — inquiring about their interest through conversations without formal interviews — on college coaches Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg as well as veteran NBA coach Stan Van Gundy, but discussions didn’t go beyond that.


At this point, Saunders doesn’t appear interested in 1,000-game winner George Karl, who very much wants to coach again but would prefer jobs in Cleveland and Washington (should the Wizards job open). But Saunders very well could opt for a NBA career coach — such as a P.J. Carlesimo or Scott Skiles — who fits his criteria for head-coaching experience as well as an ability to develop Ricky Rubio and answer questions every day next season about Kevin Love’s future.


Original Text

Former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is just hours into his retirement, but Minnesota has already reportedly begun compiling a list of dream coaches for the position.    

A source close to the situation told Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears that former NBA head coaches Lionel Hollins and Stan Van Gundy have emerged as top candidates alongside Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and Michigan State's Tom Izzo.

Hollins and Van Gundy are among the handful of most-respected coaching free agents in NBA circles. Hollins was let go by the Memphis Grizzlies last summer despite leading them to a conference finals berth due in large part to internal conflicts with management. Van Gundy was fired after five seasons in Orlando following the 2011-12 NBA season, as Magic management desperately tried appeasing an unhappy Dwight Howard.

In seven full seasons as an NBA coach, Van Gundy has never missed the playoffs. (Van Gundy resigned from his post with the Miami Heat in 2005-06 after 21 games.)

Frank Franklin

Hoiberg and Izzo are natural fits due to their relationship with the franchise. Hoiberg, 41, played his last seasons with the Timberwolves before joining the organization first as a coach and then as a team executive. He left in 2010 to take the head-coaching job at his alma mater, building Iowa State back into a Big 12 contender after years of also-ran status.

Izzo is a Michigan State legend and one of the most respected college coaches in history. At age 59 and without any NBA experience, Izzo is a strange fit on the surface. But he and Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders have a years-long friendship, and Izzo has helped Saunders evaluate college talent.

In addition to Hoiberg and Izzo, ESPN's Marc Stein presented another interesting name: Florida's Billy Donovan. The Magic famously hired Donovan away from Florida in 2007 before he had a change of heart and returned to Gainesville. In a small twist of irony, Donovan's spurning of Orlando allowed the franchise to hire Van Gundy.

The influx of rumors comes after Adelman, 67, announced his retirement Monday after a 23-year NBA coaching career. Adelman missed the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Minnesota, though the Timberwolves' 40-42 record in 2013-14 was his best and they increased their win total in each campaign. The Timberwolves have missed the playoffs each of the last 10 seasons.

Although Adelman did not have the success he or owner Glen Taylor expected when he came over in 2010-11, there is reason for optimism. Kevin Love is one of the game's 10 best players, Nikola Pekovic has developed into a brute force down low and perhaps the next coach will be able to tap into Ricky Rubio's immense talents more.

"I think it's time for me to step aside," Adelman told reporters. "When I came here, we really tried to see if we could turn some things around and we made some strides. Not as much as we would have liked, but I think it's time for me to step aside and let someone else come in with this group. We're not that far away."

Ann Heisenfelt

The optimism only stretches so far, however. Love, who became the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 to average 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game, has a player option following next season. He is fully expected to opt out in order to seek a maximum contract—and possibly the big-city lights that typically go along with being one of the game's biggest stars.

With Rubio eligible for a contract extension as well, Saunders and whomever the team hires are going to have difficult decisions. Rubio shows promise as a defender and might be the league's best passer period, but his continued inability to progress his shot cramps Minnesota's spacing. Given that former general manager David Kahn refused to give Love the five-year max in an effort to save it for Rubio, the potential for fiasco exists.

Hence the desire from all sides to land a big-name coach. Saunders needs to show Love the Timberwolves are committed to competing for championships, and with limited financial flexibility this summer, the best way he can do so is by landing a big name. 

The question is whether any of these top-of-the-list options are willing to stick their neck out and risk taking the job when Love could leave next summer. Big names sound nice in the press, but not so much when you're a franchise shrouded in uncertainty.


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