Three of those five entities had major leadership/personnel decisions to make this spring: The Timberwolves and Wild were deciding on head coaches and the Gophers were in search of a permanent athletic director.
All three have announced their hires within the past few weeks. And in what has to qualify as a stunning development, all three of them thought big – and all three seem to have gotten things right.
In each case, there was a perfectly acceptable and capable interim option.
The Wolves could have given Sam Mitchell a chance to build on a season in which the Wolves had a double-digit improvement in victories.
The Wild could have rewarded John Torchetti for steering a listing ship into the playoffs and being competitive in the postseason.
The Gophers could have looked at Beth Goetz’s accomplishments and stabilizing presence in the athletic department and named her the permanent AD.
Instead, the Wolves hired proven winner Tom Thibodeau as coach and president of basketball operations (while adding Scott Layden to the mix as general manager). The Wild nabbed Bruce Boudreau, who has a track record of success. And the Gophers on Wednesday introduced Mark Coyle as their new AD, wrestling him away from the same job at Syracuse.
In every case, an opportunity presented itself to go beyond the status quo. And the leaders of each of those organizations went for it, stepping up in terms of vision and finances.
Thibodeau was the best coach available and the Wolves were the best job available. They also offered a reported five-year, $40 million contract.
Boudreau is a coaching lifer who was fired by Anaheim and was a more attractive candidate than anyone available after the Wild’s season ended. He got four years and a reported $10.5 million total, plus the chance to earn more with incentives.
Coyle has Minnesota ties, job experience and a reputation for fixing bad situations. He is being paid $850,000 a year for five years.
Listen for the common themes:
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor (who also owns the Star Tribune) said at the Thibodeau/Layden news conference: “We have an outstanding group of young players and this is a unique opportunity for us to go for the championship again. Not for one year, not for two years, but over many years, if we can put this together right.”
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher at Tuesday’s Boudreau news conference: “Once Bruce became available and we had a chance to meet, it mostly became about, ‘Can we get him signed?’ It’s very rare that you get an opportunity to sign a coach with his credentials.”
University President Eric Kaler on Wednesday was asked about Coyle’s $850,000 salary, roughly double what Norwood Teague was making before he was fired last year. Said Kaler: “Mark is in a different class and is deserving of his compensation.”
There are no guarantees that all (or any) of these hires will work out. But you can’t accuse the Wolves, Wild or Gophers of settling or thinking small.