Jeff Van Gundy Was a Real Possibility as Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach

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Jeff Van Gundy Was a Real Possibility as Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves have elected to go with president of basketball operations Flip Saunders as the team's next head coach, but he certainly wasn't the only candidate throughout the search process.

Chief among the other options was ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy, according to the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman. Per Hartman, Saunders said Van Gundy was the organization's Plan A:

The first guy that I went to and tried to get was Jeff Van Gundy. He was the first guy…He’s a guy that Glen and I were comfortable [with] and would have hired him off the bat. I feel like he’s the best coach, the best coach out there and has a lot of the same philosophies.

In turn, Van Gundy has indicated that he simply didn't believe he was the best person for the job.

According to Hartman, Saunders offered some additional tidbits, including that the organization had looked into Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger:

We were serious [about Joerger]. We never got to a point with anyone — what do people consider? We were going down the road where was he going to be able come, even if he could come? That I don’t know. When you start getting into this there’s a lot of factors that get involved.

Saunders also admitted to contacting Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg.

David Sherman/Getty Images

Van Gundy would have inherited a team that's going through some serious changes. CBSSports.com's James Herbert notes:

The Wolves are in a transition period in a couple of ways -- they will be moving on from the Rick Adelman era, and it appears extremely likely they will be moving on from the Love era. They might revisit some of these other coaching candidates a year or two from now, and Saunders' challenge is to move the team in the right direction in the interim. With the probable exit of Love, that will not be an easy task.

Saunders remains committed to trying to keep Love around, and he reportedly believes that naming himself coach may have been the club's best chance to do just that. The odds of that actually working out remain doubtful by all accounts. 

According to USA Today's Sam Amick, "As one person close to the situation said on Thursday, even if the Timberwolves had brought in Phil Jackson as coach, Love still would want out. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation."

So maybe Saunders won't keep Love around. But he could still improve the Timberwolves. The team finished just 40-42 this last season and desperately needs some kind of turnaround. Without the cap flexibility to infuse new talent, Saunders may indeed be the best hope of improving upon a middling recent history. 

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