Original Timberwolves player Tony Campbell spends most of his days a long way from Minnesota, working as the athletic director at Bay Ridge Prep School in Brooklyn, N.Y., while also coaching the basketball, baseball and soccer teams at the school.
But Campbell, who will be back at Target Center on Monday for the Rockets game when the Wolves honor him as part of their 25th season celebration, has kept a keen eye on his former franchise for the two-plus decades since he last played here.
During a discussion of the current roster, it was suggested to him that this year’s squad could one more piece — a vintage Tony Campbell providing some more wing scoring.
He chuckled. “Yeah, some more offense would help a bit,” Campbell said.
Campbell provided plenty of that with the Wolves, playing the first three seasons in the organization’s history. Kevin Garnett dominates many of the franchise’s career and single-season records, but you’ll find Campbell’s name on a lot of top 10 lists — including the second-most points scored in a single season, 1,903 in 1989-90, the Wolves’ first season.
When pressed, Campbell even included himself on a list of all-time Wolves greats. He also included Garnett, Tom Gugliotta, Kevin Love and Al Jefferson in that group of five. Campbell poured in nearly 5,000 points in his three seasons in Minnesota. Of his 224 career starts, 193 came with the Wolves.
“The Timberwolves were the first team that gave me the ball and made me who I am,” he said. “Yes, I won a championship with the Lakers, but I think the Timberwolves really put me on the map. For that, I’m completely grateful.”
The Wolves won only 66 games the first three seasons — the first at the Metrodome and the next two at Target Center — but for Campbell there were still plenty of fond memories. On multiple occasions during our conversation, he lauded the work of Bill Musselman, the coach for Campbell’s first two seasons in Minnesota.
“We were pretty much designing our own paths. It was a great feeling. We were new and exciting, and we were bringing back professional basketball to the Twin Cities,” Campbell said. “We set attendance records, and we had some very good games. And we had a coach who believed in us and supported us. And we would run through walls for him. Teams couldn’t rest on their laurels because we would beat them.”
The current Wolves have pieces in place to be successful — “a healthy, robust roster,” Campbell said — but this is a critical juncture.
“If they make the right choices with Kevin [Love], they can be the right kind of team,” he said. “And if not they might be going back to the days of old.”