Hartman: Ex-Wolves coaches finding success elsewhere this year

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 28, 2014 - 7:24 AM

Kevin McHale, Dwane Casey and even Randy Wittman are having winning seasons, unlike their former team.

If you want a good indicator that players win games, not coaches, take a look at the success of all the former Timberwolves coaches who were fired here in the past decade.

Kevin McHale, Dwane Casey and Randy Wittman have all found great success this season with their teams, and they are proving that they are fully capable coaches when given good talent to work with.

McHale has the Houston Rockets in fifth place in the Western Conference at 39-19. Casey has made the Toronto Raptors one of the surprise teams in the NBA this year as they sit in third place in the Eastern Conference at 32-26. And Wittman, who was rumored to be very close to losing his job after the Washington Wizards started the season 2-7, now has them in fifth place in the East at 30-28.

McHale took over as coach after firing longtime coach Flip Saunders in 2005, then coached again in 2009. Casey coached the entire 2005-06 season before being fired midway through the following season, replaced by Wittman, who was fired midway through the 2008-09 campaign. Kurt Rambis took over and coached two seasons before the Wolves fired him and brought in Rick Adelman.

Meanwhile, Adelman, who had posted 18 winning seasons in a 20-year NBA career when he was hired by the Wolves, posted back-to-back losing seasons in 2011-12 and 2012-13 for the first time in his career.

The Wolves last made the playoffs in 2004 under Saunders, who had been coach since 1995 and is now back as president of basketball operations. Since the 2003-04 season under Saunders, the Wolves had gone 244-478 coming into this year’s campaign, and they currently stand at 28-29, five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 25 games to go.

The Wolves have a chance to still make a run at a winning record. They should have a chance to win at least seven of their next eight games with road games at Sacramento, Denver and Charlotte and home games against New York, Detroit, Toronto, Milwaukee and Sacramento.

Unlikely to return

Getting back to Adelman, I believe there is little or no chance that he will return to coach the Wolves after the season. Both Wolves owner Glen Taylor and Adelman have options they can exercise as far as Adelman’s coaching next season.

Adelman is used to winning, making the playoffs and contending for championships.

There is a big question whether they can contend with the personnel he has, and I believe if he doesn’t think he can coach a winner, he will retire after coaching in the NBA for 23 years and recording one of the great coaching records in league history.

Jottings

• Big Ten men’s basketball is not what it used to be, lacking one real dominant team. Even the teams who have dominated at stretches such as Michigan, the current conference leader, have had rough stretches. The Wolverines went 2-3 over five games earlier this month, and Wednesday night needed a last-second miracle shot to beat a Purdue team that is 5-10 in the conference. Michigan State, because of a number of injuries, is 3-4 in February. Wisconsin lost five of six games from Jan. 14 to Feb. 1; Ohio State lost five of six after a 15-0 start and Thursday night lost at Penn State; and Iowa has lost three straight and four of six.

• Michigan shared the conference championship two years ago but hasn’t won a Big Ten title alone since the 1986 season. The Gophers will try and upset the Wolverines on Saturday, but Michigan has won the past five meetings between the schools. The Gophers are 3-5 in Ann Arbor over the past 10 years. If Michigan wins two of its last three games against the Gophers, Illinois and Indiana, it will win the title outright.

Zach Parise of the Wild, Kevin Love of the Wolves and Maya Moore of the Lynx are among the celebrities committed to participate in the Major League Baseball All-Star Legends Softball Game at Target Field on July 13, two days before the All-Star Game. … Major League Baseball is working to finalize plans to stage a concert as a part of the All-Star festivities on July 12. … The Twins have sold 33,000 tickets for their home opener April 7 against Oakland. … The Twins have hired Mary Giesler as the ballclub’s new vice president general counsel. Giesler has spent the past 15 years working for the law firm of Kaplan, Strangis and Kaplan.

• It’s interesting to note that Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell is now listed as the 87th-best prospect in the nation according to Rivals.com. He was previously ranked No. 1 in the country.

• Former Gophers guard Justin Cobbs was named as one of the 21 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate point guard. Cobbs is averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game for California, which is in a four-way tie for third place in the Pacific-12 at 18-10 overall and 9-6 in the conference.

• ESPN.com recently published a report on what to watch for as the Gophers start spring football practice next week. Here’s what was listed at No. 1: “Philip Nelson’s transfer means redshirt sophomore Mitch Leidner enters spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback. He’s a load to bring down when he runs, but Leidner needs to improve his passing accuracy after completing 55 percent of his passes in the regular season and only half of his 22 attempts in the Texas Bowl game loss to Syracuse. Added experience should help. If not, [Jerry Kill’s] got some talented youngsters such as Chris Streveler and Dimonic Roden-McKinzy aiming to dethrone him.”

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