There are few jobs in Minnesota that boast higher turnover than head coach of the Timberwolves. (Ok – maybe starting QB for the Vikings).
Since the Kevin Garnett/Flip Saunders glory years ground to an abrupt halt a decade ago, every few years the team has dragged in a new savior head coach to salvage the wreck and lead the team back to respectability.
You’ve probably forgotten their names already: Randy Wittman, Kurt Rambis, Duane Casey.
These coaches were ultimately exiled just as quickly as they arrived and then forgetfully tossed into the rubbish pile we know as the Timberwolves’ franchise history.
Things were supposed to finally change three years ago when the team brought in Rick Adelman, who had success in turning around other franchises such as Portland and Sacramento.
But even for one of the highest-regarded coaches in NBA history, turning around the T-Wolves was proved to be too daunting of a task, and he was ultimately swallowed by the same beast that previously consumed Messrs. Wittman, Rambis, Casey and Kevin McHale.
But Adelman did a commendable job during his tenure, inheriting a team that was at rock bottom and bringing it up to a borderline .500 team.
While the team’s assets are still quite messy, the possibility of coaching Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio should be enough to attract a high-risk, high reward coaching candidate.
Names floated around have included studs in the college ranks, including Florida’s Billy Donovan, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg (a former T-Wolf of the aforementioned glory days and former front office man) and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. Other possibilities raised include NBA coaching retreads like George Karl and the brothers Van Gundy (Stan and Jeff).
So where do we go from here? Well, you can’t teach old dogs like Tom Izzo new tricks, and he seems perfectly comfortable where he’s at – though his close ties to Saunders could lead him to take a second look.
Billy Donovan comes across as the college basketball version of Nick Saban: he might take an NBA job someday, but the moment he realizes it’s difficult and that he’s not good at it, he’ll bolt back to a cushy post in the college ranks. Besides, if he does decide to make the jump this year, he’ll probably land with a higher-profile squad, ie Phil Jackson’s New York Knicks.
Hoiberg seems to be the best target on this list, even though GM Flip Saunders has denied that he is indeed a candidate. He has a history with the team and a clear knack and charisma for coaching, as evidenced by his quick turnaround of the Iowa State program. He’s the kind of guy that can rally players around him, which is desperately what the T-Wolves need if they want to keep Kevin Love from bolting to a flashier or more competent team.
NFL teams have had similar success dipping into the college ranks for these types of coaches, but they don’t last very long before they’re tapped into. It’s only a matter of time before Hoiberg is coaching in the NBA, so Saunders and company would wise to reel him in early.