Monday, April 21, 2014
What's next for the Wolves?
By Marc Stein
Billy Donovan is the hot new name to emerge as an inevitable target in the coaching search that officially began Monday for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
NBA coaching sources told ESPN.com that the Wolves have Donovan prominent in their thoughts as they compile a list of potential successors to the retiring Rick Adelman that -- as covered here in March -- already includes college titans Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg.
The challenge, of course, in pursuing any of those three is convincing one of them to leave their veritable college kingdoms to take over an NBA team whose franchise player has only a year to go on his contract.
The coach Minnesota ultimately hires is supposed to help the Wolves sway Kevin Love to stay. But how do you convince the likes of Donovan to leave Florida -- or a full-fledged emperor like Izzo at Michigan State -- to make the jump to the NBA without assurances that Love will stick around for the long haul?
Wolves president of basketball operations and minority owner Flip Saunders and Izzo are tight. Hoiberg is a former Wolves player and executive. They will surely listen when the call comes. And so, too, will Donovan. They'll give the Wolves an opportunity, at the very least, to make a determined pitch ... provided Wolves owner Glen Taylor doesn't turn around in the next few days and decide that Flip should just go back downstairs.
There's every chance, given how hard it would be to actually land a titan, that the Wolves will be forced to go a more traditional NBA route. (Yet another factor: It has also been suggested in coaching circles that the Wolves could make the determination, fond as they are of Hoiberg, that they need someone more experienced on the bench when the franchise is in such a precarious place in terms of Love's future.)
With Saunders vowing to Minnesota-based reporters Monday that the search will be a lengthy one that's not necessarily wrapped up before the draft in June, that gives a number of coaches currently in the broadcasting ranks time to emerge as serious candidates. (Stan and Jeff Van Gundy, to date, are the names that have been mentioned most frequently.)
The most obvious option, amid all of the scenarios above, continues to be Saunders returning to coach the team himself. You'll recall that he's the last coach to take the Wolves to the playoffs, although, sadly, that was all the way back in 2004.
Yet signals continue to be mixed on whether Saunders is prepared to leave the executive suite to return to the bench or try to do both jobs. They're just as mixed when it comes to the willingness of Taylor to allow Saunders to do both. Sorting that out could well be the Wolves' first step.
So the only certainty in 'Sota at the moment is that the Wolves are determined to do anything and everything they can muster to keep Love around for the long term.
Given that the Wolves sport the league's longest active playoff drought, it's no stretch to suggest that they still haven't recovered from Kevin Garnett's departure in July 2007. So you can understand why they can barely bring themselves to talk about what it would be like trying to recover from the loss of two Franchise Kevins.
And why the Wolves have to think as big as they can as the hunt for a new coach begins.