Wild interim head coach John Torchetti seems like a character we might know all-too-briefly. He is 1-0 in the 27 games he has been given to save the Wild’s season; but doing so could be considered more of a long shot than an audition, and even if the Wild can rebound to make the postseason there are no guarantees about the future of Torch (and so many others in the organization).
That sort of holding pattern, though, is not uncommon on the Twin Cities sports scene right now. Three major entities — the Wild, Wolves and Gophers athletics — are going through various forms of it right now, and it is impacting decisions on all fronts while also making fans restless.
For the Wild, having an interim head coach, as noted, means the future of the organization is on hold. Just six weeks ago, there seemed to be a certain amount of stability. Now, there’s the real possibility of a major roster and front office overhaul two months from now. That impacts long-term planning and it could influence short-term thinking with the Feb. 29 trade deadline less than two weeks away. Until we know how this season plays out, the Wild is in the midst of a waiting game.
The Timberwolves are experiencing a double dose of this after the death of head coach and chief decision maker Flip Saunders shortly before the start of the season. Interim Sam Mitchell certainly has authority to coach the team, while GM Milt Newton is running the team. But their futures beyond this season are nowhere close to guaranteed — particularly with Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, proceeding toward selling a minority stake of the Timberwolves (and eventually controlling interest) to a group led by Steve Kaplan.
So the sale needs to happen. And then the Wolves need to decide on how to proceed with key decision-makers. In the meantime, the trade deadline is Thursday. It’s hard to imagine the Wolves making a blockbuster deal — not that they should, regardless — with so many things in flux.
The Gophers are in a similar spot. Norwood Teague departed last August, with Beth Goetz stepping in as interim AD. She said late last week that she will seek the permanent job, a decision that came in step with the school announcing a timeline for making a hire: naming a search firm and search committee by early March, having AD finalists by late spring and then a hire after that.
While all that plays out, decisions on other key figures in the department are stacking up. As Chip Scoggins wrote recently:
A search for a new athletic director is underway. New football coach Tracy Claeys has a minuscule buyout, essentially making his first full season a prove-it audition. Men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino is losing supporters by the day. And veteran men’s hockey coach Don Lucia has a contract that expires in April 2017. That’s a lot of uncertainty at one particular time.
Any sort of long-term vision will have to wait to be sorted out until an AD is hired, and that will be months from now.
In some senses, there’s no particular hurry for any of the Wild, Wolves or Gophers to figure things out. Time will pass. Decisions will be made. Things will move forward, either for better or worse.
But it does feel strange to have so many holding patterns at once.