Wolves consider Vinny Del Negro

Updated: May 29, 2014, 11:38 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Former Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro has emerged as a serious candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves' vacancy, according to NBA coaching sources.

Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that Del Negro, who also is being considered for the Cleveland Cavaliers' job, was spotted last week interviewing with Wolves president and part-owner Flip Saunders and is firmly in the mix for the post after the collapse of Minnesota's talks with Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger.

[+] EnlargeVinny Del Negro
Spruce Derden/USA TODAY SportsVinny Del Negro led the Clippers to 57 wins in 2013 but was fired after a loss in the first round of the playoffs. He has a career record of 210-184.

It was widely assumed that Minnesota would turn to co-finalist and former Wolves forward Sam Mitchell after Grizzlies owner Robert Pera unexpectedly talked Joerger into staying in Memphis, thanks partly to improving the terms of Joerger's contract.

But sources say Mitchell is by no means a shoo-in to replace the retiring Rick Adelman, with Del Negro said to have made a strong impression on the Wolves in their talks to date.

Del Negro was fired by the Clippers after a first-round playoff exit in 2013 despite winning 57 games during the regular season. Del Negro has a career mark of 210-184 before being replaced in Chicago and Los Angeles by Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers, respectively.

The Wolves, in addition to Joerger, Del Negro and Mitchell, are known to have interviewed former NBA head coaches Lionel Hollins and Scott Skiles. ESPN analyst George Karl also has publicly expressed interest in the job.

The team is letting the search for Adelman's replacement play out, general manager Milt Newton told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"We're not rushed for time to select a coach; the process will take care of itself," Newton said. "I guarantee we will have one before the season starts next year."

Minnesota initially pursued three of the top names from the college ranks but was rebuffed by Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Florida's Billy Donovan and Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg. ESPN.com reported in late March that the Wolves would make a hard play for Hoiberg, who both played and served as an executive in Minnesota before moving to the college game at Iowa State, but Hoiberg could not be convinced to leave the Cyclones, who have since awarded him a sweetened contract.

Speculation persists that Saunders could come downstairs to do the job himself, given that he remains the last coach to lead Minnesota to the playoffs back in 2004, but sources say that to this point, Saunders has remained focused on trying to hire a coach to allow him to keep his focus on front-office duties.

The Wolves, besides replacing Adelman, are in the midst of dealing with Kevin Love's uncertain future after ESPN.com reported earlier this month that Love has told team officials that he intends to pass on a contract extension and leave in free agency in July 2015, preferring to be traded to a contender such as Golden State or Chicago before it gets to that point.

The Wolves have yet to see any potential trade talks involving Love or any of their other players heat up, Newton said Thursday.

The market figures to pick up as the draft approaches at the end of June, but the Timberwolves have not ruled out keeping Love, the three-time All-Star power forward who has been the face of the franchise for the past five years, and making enough moves to bolster the roster and convince him that he should sign a contract to stay in Minnesota, where he can make more money than anywhere else.

"We'll do what's best for the organization," Newton said. "He's a hell of a player, a hell of a talent. Our first inclination is to keep him on board. If that's not the case, you best believe we'll be a better team based on what happens."

The Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs in 10 seasons, so if they do decide to trade their best player, they want to avoid a complete rebuild while doing it. A combination of high draft picks and solid veterans likely would be a starting point for the bidding.

The Wolves also held their first round of pre-draft workouts Thursday, hosting a handful of players who could be second-round picks or undrafted free agents, including Minnesota guard Austin Hollins, Louisville forward Chane Behanan and UMass point guard Chaz Williams.

The Timberwolves have three second-round picks in the draft, which made Thursday's workout an important day for a team that figures to be busy well into the night June 26.

"Not all the second-round picks are probably going to be on the team next year, so you want to be in a position to select guys and have them play in Europe or what have you," Newton said. "The players that we had today are definitely those level players that we would look at.

"At the end of the day, you may have a guy that really impresses you, plays well in the summer league and finds a spot onto your team."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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