Only 27 years after he packed his relatively few belongings into his car and drove west from Boston toward his first NBA coaching job, Tom Thibodeau returned to the Timberwolves as their new coach and president of basketball operations Wednesday.

One week after the team announced it would do a search to fill both jobs, team owner Glen Taylor chose the former Chicago Bulls head coach as one man for the two jobs.

And Taylor did it — paying Thibodeau a reported $40 million over the next five years — on his 75th birthday.

The team also named well-respected San Antonio assistant general manager Scott Layden as the GM who will lead the front office under Thibodeau's supervision.

In a text message Wednesday night, Thibodeau said, "I started my NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and it is an incredible opportunity to rejoin the organization at a time when they have what I believe is the best young roster in the NBA."

He added that with a "great owner" in Taylor and a "terrific basketball partner" in longtime friend Layden, he looks "forward to building a winning culture that Minnesota sports fans can be proud of."

In a news release, Taylor said he quickly identified defense-minded Thibodeau as the "best leader" to shape a team built around young stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

"Tom's résumé speaks for itself," Taylor said. "He is a proven winner, leader and one of the most well-respected NBA head coaches over the last decade."

Returning to where he started

In his first time around in Minnesota, Thibodeau was a young, ambitious, quite possibly obsessed former Harvard assistant coach. He also had a luxuriant head of hair and a relentlessness that fit perfectly alongside head coach Bill Musselman on the expansion team's first two coaching staffs, even if Thibodeau in 2009 recalled, "At that time, I didn't know which way was up."

Fired by the Bulls 11 months ago after five successful seasons, he spent this past season on sabbatical. He visited the training camps of coaching pals Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and Steve Clifford in Charlotte last fall and took long walks along Lake Michigan with a baseball cap tugged down over his eyes all winter when he wasn't watching NBA games nightly.

He arrives back in the league, at age 58, a product of all the coaches for whom he ever worked, a list that includes Rivers, Musselman, Jerry Tarkanian, John Lucas and, for 10 seasons, Jeff Van Gundy. Thibodeau, Rivers and a guy named Kevin Garnett won the 2008 NBA title with the Celtics.

"You know when you work with a guy so long," ESPN/ABC commentator Van Gundy once said during a broadcast. "He was the best coach on our staff, me included, and I always knew that."

Thibodeau arrives with a reputation as a basketball savant who has little or no life outside the court's line or the game-film room. A single man, Thibodeau once spoofed his supposed single-mindedness by telling a reporter dryly, "I do have other interests. My rare stamp collection is pretty nice."

Of course, there is no rare stamp collection.

"Look, he has friends, he has family in New Britain," longtime friend Frank Catapano said about Thibodeau and his Connecticut hometown. "I don't think he's one-dimensional at all. He's smart. He's funny. If you don't have [an immediate] family, you devote your time to your business and basketball is a very demanding business."

Catapano is also a longtime player agent based in Boston who represented then-future Wolves Sam Mitchell, Sidney Lowe and Scott Brooks on Musselman's Albany team in the Continental Basketball Association in the late 1980s. Thibodeau hitched a ride with Catapano a couple of times to Albany, where he met Musselman and his precise practice ways.

"You'll love this guy"

Much alike in many ways, Thibodeau and Musselman forged a friendship that resulted in Thibodeau's hiring as an assistant for the inaugural Wolves team a year later.

"I remember my dad telling me, 'You'll love this guy,' " said University of Nevada coach Eric Musselman, son of Bill and a fellow assistant with Thibodeau during the Wolves' second season. "He said, 'He loves basketball. He eats it, sleeps it, breathes it.' He knew he was taking a gamble on a guy who had no NBA experience."

Coincidentally, Thibodeau replaces Mitchell — who served as interim this season after coach and basketball boss Flip Saunders was hospitalized in September and died in October from cancer — as the Wolves' head coach and was chosen over fellow candidates Brooks and Van Gundy for both jobs.

Throughout his NBA career, Thibodeau has coached such players as Garnett, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce and Derrick Rose. When he was a Philadelphia assistant in the mid-1990s, he befriended a high school player dreaming of far bigger things.

The kid's name was Kobe Bryant. Thibodeau instantly recognized the teenager's talent and the desire. On his own time, Thibodeau drilled the prep star the way he, a decade earlier, helped future U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan play four pro seasons in Australia.

"When I was in high school, I really didn't know what the hell was going on," Bryant told in 2010. "I just knew he was this really nice man who was very knowledgeable about the game and was willing to teach me things. … You knew his time was going to come."

It finally came in Chicago, where the Bulls won 62 games and Rose won league MVP in Thibodeau's first season. The Bulls reached the playoffs all five years, but Thibodeau ultimately was fired partly because of conflicts with management and perhaps his insistence on playing his best players big minutes was blamed for the team's many injuries.

"Anywhere is a good spot for Thibs, he just needs a team," Rose told reporters in New York City in March. "He's a good coach, a hell of a coach. And I think wherever he goes, he'll have success. It's in his DNA."

With the Wolves, he will be both coach and manager.

"In the NBA, the coach and general manager have to be on the same page," said Eric Musselman, hired and fired from two NBA head coaching jobs. "When it's the same guy, it's pretty hard not to be on the same page."

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