Of the 160 career NBA games Scott Roth played, 71 were with the expansion 1989-90 Timberwolves — an eclectic mix of players, to say the least.
Bill Musselman was the head coach of that team, which finished 22-60. The squad also featured a young assistant coach by the name of Tom Thibodeau.
More than a quarter-century later, Roth’s relationship with Thibodeau — which actually began years earlier when Roth was playing for the Musselman in the old CBA and Thibodeau would attend the team’s practices — has led him to another opportunity with an eclectic mix of players.
It was announced earlier this summer that Roth had been hired as head coach of the Iowa Wolves, the new G League (formerly the NBA Development League) affiliate team in Des Moines that was purchased and rebranded by the Timberwolves.
“It’s probably the most unique league in the world. Not everything is bent on winning,” said Roth, who coached previously in the league in Bakersfield. “You want to win and set that culture, but at the end of the day every team is going to use the league slightly differently. For us it’s going to be to help a guy like [first-round pick Justin] Patton and some two-way guys develop and get better … and have them ready to earn minutes in the NBA.”
That said, Roth acknowledged the Iowa Wolves’ roster is currently pretty “bare bones.” To that end, the organization held local tryouts on Saturday to see if there were any hidden gems in the Twin Cities who could wind up being practice bodies — or more.
“There’s always someone floating around that can still play,” Roth said. “And it’s a good public relations thing to have the guys come through and get the team to be known.”
The G League draft is in about a month, which will help fill out the roster. Regardless of who winds up making the cut, though, the mission will be the same.
Having someone like Roth at the helm will help ensure that the vision of the parent club and minor league club are aligned. Roth has the history with Thibodeau and also with Wolves GM Scott Layden, who worked with the Utah Jazz when Roth played there before his stint with the expansion Wolves.
“When Scott and Thibs provided this opportunity to set the foundation, I jumped on that opportunity,” Roth said. “To be a part of this organization with Thibs is a big benefit.”
The Timberwolves have more veterans than in recent seasons and figure to have a solid rotation if their roster stays healthy. That said, the vagaries of an NBA season could lead Minnesota to lean on players from Iowa at times. To that end, Roth could play a key role for a franchise that has changed quite a bit since his playing days.
“We played in the [Metrodome], and the memories of having huge crowds there was incredible,” he said. “Flash-forward to some great years Flip [Saunders] had here and then a downturn to some degree, and then a chance for Thibs to carry on a rebuilding process. It’s pointing in the right direction, and the city should be excited.”