Posted at 3:54 PM on June 10, 2009
by Chris Dall
Now that new Timberwolves GM David Kahn is settling into his new digs, it's time to start asking just exactly who is going to coach the team next year. Kahn and Kevin McHale have reportedly shared a few meals together (do you think Kevin asked to trade meals after he made the order?), but Kahn is still not sharing his plans, and he says it's not imperative the team have a coach in place before the draft. I'm not so sure about that.
I've gone on record in stating that I thought McHale did a pretty good job as coach, and that I could see him keeping the position. But given the negativity and apathy of the fan base toward this franchise, I now think the team needs to move on and part ways for good with the man from Hibbing.
So what are the options? Here are some of the names being bandied about:
Sam Mitchell: We all know that Minnesota teams like to have guys with local connections, and though Sam isn't from here, he was an original Timberwolf and is linked to the team's only successful period. His track record as a coach is mixed. In his four+ seasons with Toronto, Sam compiled a 156-189 record, though he did win a coach of the year award and took the team to the playoffs twice. He's considered a motivator who will get guys to play hard, which is good, since that was a problem at times last year.
Avery Johnson: Another guy in the "motivator" mode. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks for three+ seasons, compiled a 194-70 record, won a coach of the year award, and took his team to the NBA Finals. He also had an extremely talented team, which leads one to wonder how much of a role he played in their success.
Tom Thibodeau: Currently an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, Thibodeau is considered a defensive specialist, and that could be good for a team that hasn't paid too much attention to defense the last few years. He's also been in the league for 19 years, which makes you wonder why he hasn't been a head coach yet. He appears to be on the radar of other teams looking for coaches.
Jeff Van Gundy: My personal favorite of the bunch. He's another who guy who stresses defense and gets guys to play hard, and looks like he sleeps in his office with his head on the playbook. Plus he's funny and candid, and probably wouldn't care that he's coaching in an NBA backwater. He may not be the sexiest pick, but I think he'd create a good culture around this team.
Of the four listed I think I like Mitchell. As you say Johnson had talent to work with so you don't know how he would deal with this team. I know nothing about Thibodeau, but some guys are meant to be assistants. They aren't comfortable in the head coaching role.
As for Van Gundy, I don't see him giving up his TV job to return to coaching.
If McHale doesn't stay, I think it's almost inevitable that Mitchell will at least be offered the job, since Taylor apparently thinks very highly of him.