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TFD: One day, two news conferences -- the differences between the Wild and Wolves

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • June 6, 2014 - 5:10 PM

A year ago, both the Timberwolves and Wild were at something of a crossroads.

The Wolves, hoping to convince star forward Kevin Love to stay long-term, spent on proven basket-makers like Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and Nikola Pekovic and hoped that along with Love, Ricky Rubio and the coaching of Rick Adelman, it would propel the team into the playoff picture and answer longer-term questions about stability.

The Wild, after a spending spree the previous summer, had barely made the playoffs and exited quickly. They had a head coach and assistants heading into the final year of their contracts. It was clear that 2013-14 was going to be a "prove it" season in many ways.

A year, later, we arrived at Friday. One one end of the Twin Cities, the Wild was officially announcing a three-year contract extension for Mike Yeo, who battled through plenty of adversity this past season, brought the Wild to the second round of the playoffs and showed GM Chuck Fletcher -- at least for now -- that he is the right coach to grow along with a young team. There are still some holes and mysteries on the Wild's roster, most notably at goaltender, but the nucleus that exists is undeniably solid and has come as the result of properly following a blueprint.

On the other end of the Twin Cities, the Wolves were announcing Flip Saunders was taking over as head coach of the Wolves. This was dressed up with facts about Flip's 638 career victories (third-most among active head coaches), but it was also very clear that in spite of improving to 40 victories last season, this is very much not going according to plan. Owner Glen Taylor said multiple times Friday, as he and his new coach took questions, that having Saunders in the dual role of coach and president of basketball operations was not his preference. Both men said they came to the conclusion that it was the best idea after other plans fell through. That very well could be true. But it also illustrates that the other looming question for the Wolves -- Love's future -- very much had an impact on this coaching search, even if the Wolves don't want to paint it that way.

The Wild took its lumps. Yeo said he felt the external pressure last year, particularly during the team's rough patches. He acknowledged he wouldn't have been able to handle the pressure earlier in his coaching tenure. But he withstood it. And he deserves this. The Wild doesn't have to sell a narrative. The narrative makes sense.

The Wolves feel like they are trying to retrofit a narrative, and not all that effectively. Jeff Van Gundy saying on the radio today that he "loved the idea" of coaching the Wolves but thought Flip was the best man for the job feels like a sell-job.

Both franchises could very well fail or succeed in the coming years. Saunders IS the only coach to ever lead this franchise to a playoff berth, let alone a playoff victory. Yeo is only a handful of months removed from intense speculation that he should be fired.

But it's clear which one was winning today. 

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