Wolves' coaching search ends on the inside

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 6, 2014 - 12:42 AM

 

Building a bridge to their uncertain future, the Timberwolves will reach into their past when they formally announce president of basketball operations Flip Saunders as their next head coach as well at a Friday afternoon Target Center news conference.

During a search in which he pursued Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and TV analyst Jeff Van Gundy, and interviewed several NBA coaches, including Memphis’ Dave Joerger, owner Glen Taylor and Saunders ultimately decided that he is the right man for the job.

At least he is for now.

The team’s basketball boss and part owner repeatedly denied he intended to both manage the roster and coach the team until Thursday, when both he and Taylor told the Star Tribune that Saunders will coach the team next season.

Now he indeed will do both jobs, just as Doc Rivers now does with the Los Angeles Clippers, as Stan Van Gundy was just hired to do in Detroit and as Gregg Popovich in essence has done for some time in San Antonio.

Unknown is whether Saunders’ presence on the bench, too, will in any way persuade three-time All-Star Kevin Love — under contract until at least June 2015 but most recently sighted posing for photos with Celtics fans in Boston — to stay in Minnesota.

“I didn’t think he was going to be the coach,” Wolves veteran forward Corey Brewer said of the club’s all-time winningest coach with 411 victories. “I like Flip. Best coach the Timberwolves ever had. It’s all about winning.”

Saunders will coach possibly for only a season until he can either groom a replacement or revisit discussions with Hoiberg, Izzo or conceivably even Joerger to determine if their circumstances and inclinations have changed. According to a person with knowledge of the search, Saunders at one point thought he had convinced Izzo to take the job.

Saunders instead will coach for now with a staff that’s expected to include former Wolves players Sidney Lowe and Sam Mitchell. In time, it also could include a coach-in-waiting assistant such as European coach David Blatt or current NBA player Chauncey Billups.

A former point guard who played for legendary Pete Carril at Princeton, Blatt has coached in Europe for the past two decades and led his Israeli team to a surprising Euroleague title last month. According to a league coaching source, Blatt might cost the Wolves $750,000 a season or more. Billups, who played for Saunders, still might want to play another season or prefer a front-office job. Saunders’ son, Ryan — an assistant coach currently under contract with Washington — is likely to be hired as an assistant coach as well.

Convincing Taylor

Saunders met with Taylor earlier this week and together they evaluated all the coaching options. They ultimately agreed the man who coached the Wolves for nearly 10 seasons a decade ago was the best available candidate to lead the franchise through a transitional period in which they probably will trade Love, perhaps by the June 26 draft.

Until this week, Taylor had said he didn’t want Saunders doing both jobs because each served its own master: A coach needs to be focused only on the present while a manager needs to think about the future.

On Thursday, Taylor said he and Saunders decided a short-term solution was preferable while they wait for the franchise’s long-term future to become clearer.

“You’ve always got to keep your options open and that’s what we did here,” Taylor said. “For the long run, this is the next step we have to take.”

Taylor said hiring Saunders as coach was the best alternative now — after Saunders interviewed as many as eight candidates — and that he saw no reason to wait later in the summer for other possibilities.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
UNLV 61 FINAL
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close