Our Chris Hine provided clarity and a time framework to the Wolves’ search for a new President of Basketball Operations, reporting on Sunday that the field of four candidates is set and that interviews will begin this week. The process is expected to last 7-10 days, meaning that perhaps next week there will be an announcement.
The candidates are not surprising based on the reporting along the way: Chauncey Billups, a former Wolves player long discussed as a possibility for a front office role here; Calvin Booth, a former Wolves player and former director of pro personnel here who is now in Denver; Houston vice president Gersson Rosas; and Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon.
Of note, too, is that Clippers GM Michael Winger has taken himself out of consideration and will not interview. Based on his resume, he would have been among the leading candidates.
Booth, Rosas and Langdon all have experience working with current teams who have made significant improvements during their tenures. Billups has no front office experience, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be good in this role.
Whomever gets the job is going to be up against a tricky situation with the roster. The Wolves already have about $109 million in salaries committed to next year’s roster, which happens to be the exact number projected for the (soft) NBA salary cap in 2019-20. Navigating decisions on what to do with high-priced players like Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Teague while injecting the roster with cheap young talent is no easy feat.
But the bigger question for a potential candidate might be how much control he has over who coaches the Wolves.
You’ll recall this was brought up often when the Twins were searching for a new executive team after the 2016 season. Owner Jim Pohlad explicitly said retaining Paul Molitor as manager, at least for the 2017 season, was a condition of the job.
It’s hard to say definitively if that impacted the search. The Twins ended up with the duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. They kept Molitor in 2017, and he won AL Manager of the Year. Then they fired him after the 2018 season and hired Rocco Baldelli, who now presides over a first-place club.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, has made no such declarations. But before the Wolves announced their search for a President of Basketball Operations, the reported consensus was that Ryan Saunders would have the interim tag removed and would get the job. Karl-Anthony Towns has been very supportive of Saunders.
Indeed, right before reports emerged that the Wolves were searching for a POBO, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Saunders and GM Scott Layden were going to be retained.
If candidates are being told that they are expected to keep Saunders — again, we don’t know if this is true — it could have an impact on the search.
Then again, I think Saunders has potential as a coach and the Wolves — like the Twins before 2017 — are in the process of a multi-year reshaping of their roster. A candidate taking the long view might not see a commitment to Saunders as much of an impediment, and perhaps might even view it as a plus given the relationships he has built with the Wolves’ young players.
Once a new POBO is hired and all other decisions are made, we will probably be able to work backwards to figure out what candidates were told and whether it had an impact.