Tom Thibodeau visited 13 teams during his season unemployed and observed everything from the atmospheres pre- and post-practice to how management and coaches worked together. After the way his time in Chicago ended, he paid particular attention to what he called "synergy" between the two in places like San Antonio, Boston and Golden State.

He visited San Antonio twice, once in the preseason and then later in the regular season. Scott Layden was — still is, for a few more days — the assistant GM there and he said neither he nor Thibodeau gave a single thought then to what might become.

"It wasn't like we sat in dark red leather booths and said, 'Should we go here?' " Layden said. "We're just good friends. I'm glad it worked out like it did. When we were in San Antonio together, who knew the Minnesota job would be open and no way we knew we'd be together. But we knew we were good friends and I was cheering for him."