A powerful reminder came in a short, simple quote from an introductory news conference, a six-word sentence that might have been easy to overlook in the moment.
But something Scott Layden said during his opening remarks as the Timberwolves’ new general manager stuck with me.
“Having a strong coach anchors organizations,” he said.
Love that quote. It is so true.
In sports, strong coaches anchor organizations by giving them credibility, direction and decisive leadership. They often become the face of their organizations, even more than their star players.
Strong coaches inspire confidence in fan bases. They make everyone believe and trust in their blueprint and their vision for how things should operate, especially when tough times stretch patience.
A strong coach makes you stop and think, yeah that person knows what he’s doing.
That optimism exists in the Twin Cities landscape now more so than in a long time with new coaching leadership that feels transformative in nature.
Mike Zimmer. Tom Thibodeau. Bruce Boudreau. Cheryl Reeve.
All anchors, or potential anchors.
Reeve has led the Lynx to three WNBA championships in six seasons. Zimmer took the Vikings to the NFC North title in his second season. Thibodeau and Boudreau were widely viewed as the top coaches available in the NBA and NHL this offseason. Both have won coach of the year honors in their respective sports.
Thibodeau and Boudreau have yet to coach a game here, and Zimmer’s rebuild remains in its early stages. But does anyone doubt that the Vikings, Wolves, Wild and Lynx are in good care?
The other teams in town fall into a “TBD” category with their head coaches: Paul Molitor, Tracy Claeys, Richard Pitino.
For this discussion, we’ll designate seven teams as major entities in terms of fan interest and media coverage — five professional teams and Gophers football and men’s basketball.
The level of coaching turnover within those organizations has been staggering.
Since 2005, those seven teams have employed 33 coaches combined, including those who held interim titles. That’s an average of nearly five coaches per team in the past 10 ½ years.
The Wolves lead the charge with eight coaches in that span. (Quick 30-second pause here to see if you can name them all.)
Answer: Dwane Casey, Randy Wittman, Kevin McHale, Kurt Rambis, Rick Adelman, Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell, Thibodeau.
The Twins have had the fewest with only two managers: Ron Gardenhire and Molitor.
Stability serves as a key component of sustained success. Not in every case, of course, but constant churning of coaches prevents organizations from establishing continuity and forces them to keep hitting reset.
That’s why Layden’s quote resonates. Teams need anchors so they’re not twisting willy-nilly.
Credibility and accountability should be pillars of any organization. Zimmer brought both to Winter Park. The entire operation feels more focused and self-assured under his leadership.
Zimmer’s personality is such that he will not allow anyone to become complacent. His response to an unacceptable offensive showing last season was to hire two former NFL head coaches to assist Norv Turner. In other words, only results matter.
Thibodeau’s arrival provides the Wolves instant credibility and validates optimism surrounding their nucleus of young talent.
Boudreau’s track record creates an expectation that he can take a playoff team and make the Wild more consistent, and thus better.
Nothing guarantees those coaches can succeed here over the long haul. Good coaches have failed here before. But the new hires bring significant equity to their posts.
Molitor accrued equity with fans last summer as the Twins rookie manager, but the fiasco unfolding this season has muddied perceptions of his managerial acumen.
Molitor is respected for his baseball IQ, but his team owns the worst record in the American League and has looked clueless at times. That reflects poorly on the manager, though his players and his boss, Terry Ryan, deserve far more blame.
As for Claeys and Pitino, it’s still unclear whether they can become program anchors. Claeys deserves more benefit of the doubt because his clock essentially is just starting.
Coaches often say that players win games, not coaches. There’s some truth in that. Talent can make coaches look better than they really are.
High-quality coaches can have an opposite effect. They draw the best out of players, maybe even help them overperform.
We’ve seen a lot of coaches come and go from this market the past 10 years. Perhaps we’re entering a period of (relative) stability.