Although the team has seen drastic improvement since last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are still cellar dwellers in 2016.
This should come as a surprise to fans and media alike as the T-wolves addition of Karl-Athony Towns should have put the team on track to be floating under .500. The Timberwolves are not in rebuilding mode anymore, they have the pieces to construct a winner and should be playing as so.
I am not the first person to suggest a coaching change (The Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan suggested the same last week), but I feel that too many people are giving interim head coach Sam Mitchell a free pass because of the death of former coach Flip Saunders. Mitchell is playing the season like he has house money and has even more excuses built in to the season than the Los Angeles Lakers.
Saunders’ passing, young players, Kevin Garnett’s possible swan song, chemistry and injury are a few of the reasons fans are not expecting much for the Timberwolves. Mitchell understands that he needs to improve as coach, but understanding and actually doing are two different things.
I will be the first to admit, I supported Mitchell in the beginning. I enjoyed his time playing under the rim for Minnesota and even hoped that he would have been a candidate for the job in years past after winning NBA Coach of the Year while in Toronto, but the proof is in the pudding — it just isn’t working out.
After seeing Mitchell use platoon-style rotation, employing Tayshaun Price more than Kevin Martin and starting elder statesmen of the team are reasons that coaching becomes a concern. Most coaches find a way to rotate their starting five throughout the game without pulling everyone out all at once.
Also, the starting five should benefit the first eight minutes on the floor. Instead, Mitchell’s T-wolves put Garnett at the forefront and have Prince in for experience? I am really confused on what is going on with the team.
Looking for potential coaching options, there are a bevy of names that could have a chance to turn the team around.
Luke Walton would be an interesting choice to take over next season. A younger coach with a high-powered offensive philosophy may benefit the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Towns and Ricky Rubio. My only concern with the choice is that Walton has basically been coaching the best team in the NBA on autopilot. Is it that hard to coach Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Iguodala at this point in their careers?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Glenn Taylor could opt to bring in a defensive-minded coach. Tom Thibodeau, based on wins and losses, is one of the best coaches in the NBA over the last five seasons. Posting a 255-139 record Thibodeau could help add another element to an exciting offensive team.
Tagging on grabbing a great assistant coach from another team is San Antonio Spurs’ Ime Udoka. Udoka is highly regarded by head coach Greg Popovich and has inner intensity and communication skills that help develop players. Popovich has stated that Udoka is a ‘sound teacher’ and that he would send the former NBDL draft pick to talk with high profile players Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills.
A wish list representative for the coaching spot would be Staples-Motley native and current Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. Joerger has helped make the Grizzlies a playoff contender and seems to have success wherever he goes. A major hurdle to having Joerger as coach is his contract extension, so one would assume that compensation will be at a premium for the coach.
Lastly, the team should do its research on college coaches. Top of the list should be Towns’ college coach John Calipari. Calipari has NBA coaching experience, but many question if he can deal with millionaires opposed to starry-eyed freshmen.
Sean Miller, head coach of the Arizona Wildcats, is a coach on the rise and with the right amount of patience, could be a great could in the league. A son of a legendary high school coach, Miller has been sung praise by current Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. The word on Miller is, not if, but when he becomes a head coach in the league, he will be a good one.
There has also been a suggestion that the Timberwolves should hire former coach and executive Kevin McHale to finish the season. Although an interesting idea, I feel the team needs to travel down a different road if they ever plan to focus on the future.
I guess the devastating part of Saunders’ death was the stability that his presence promised this team. Saunders was the team’s most successful coach and was widely considered one of the best basketball minds in the game. Mitchell was thrust into the spotlight to carry out Saunders’ vision, but the team may have to move on sooner rather than later.