Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor interviewed Dave Joerger for 2½ hours on Saturday, the next step toward the Memphis Grizzlies coach and Minnesota native becoming the team’s 11th head coach.
Taylor smiled when later asked about a meeting that brought two small-town Minnesotans from separate generations together.
“Real good,” Taylor said.
Taylor is the 73-year-old, Mankato-based billionaire who grew up on a farm in southwestern Minnesota. Joerger is the 40-year-old NBA coach who grew up in Staples, Minn., and spent a decade laboring and winning titles in the sport’s minor leagues before Memphis hired him as an assistant coach in 2007.
Joerger was promoted to replace Lionel Hollins after Hollins’ contract ended last summer, and he led Memphis to a 50-32 record and a first-round, seven-game playoff loss to Oklahoma City in his rookie season as an NBA head coach.
The Wolves asked for — and received — permission from Memphis last week after the Grizzlies owner swept two executives, including the man who hired Joerger last summer, out of the team’s front office on Monday.
With Joerger wanting out of an organization undergoing such change and the Grizzlies apparently wanting him to go, he has become the clear front-runner for a vacant job that opened when Wolves coach Rick Adelman retired last month after season’s end.
Contract terms with Joerger have not been discussed, and neither has any compensation the Grizzlies might seek, Taylor said Saturday night.
Those appear to be the two hurdles left in a process in which the Wolves have interviewed, among others, former Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell and Hollins and are believed to have gauged the interest of college coaches Tom Izzo, Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan.
When asked what the process’ next step is, Taylor said it’s up to Flip Saunders, Wolves president of basketball operations, to decide whether he wants to talk again with other candidates or interview any new candidates. The Wolves will begin bringing prospects for the June 26 draft into town this week.
The Grizzlies likely will ask the Wolves for cash or a draft pick or picks as compensation to sign a coach who’s under contract for two more years. But considering the Grizzlies probably owe Joerger at least $4 million if they want to hire a new coach, the Wolves — who have three second-round picks in next month’s draft — will be hesitant to provide anything.
“What are they going to give us?” Taylor said playfully when asked about the compensation issue.
Joerger is the only candidate who has met with Taylor, although Taylor said he knows Mitchell, a former Wolves player, well and is familiar with some of the other candidates.
Saunders interviewed Joerger on Thursday, but Taylor hadn’t met Joerger before Saturday. Taylor said he found an easy rapport with Joerger because of their common backgrounds — “Like you and me talking,” he told a reporter — and noted that Joerger’s younger brother, Blaine, played at Minnesota State Mankato.
“I liked that,” Taylor said, laughing.
Minnesota State Mankato is Taylor’s alma mater and a university to which he has donated millions of dollars and kept close ties.