Who will coach the Wolves?


By Andy Weise
Who would have thought a month ago the general public would be more curious about the Timberwolves than the Pistons? Thanks to new President of Basketball Operations David Kahn, the T’Wolves have filled headlines with a major pre-draft trade that landed international star Ricky Rubio. While the Rubio situation figures to be an on-going situation throughout the course of the summer, the Wolves still have yet to hire a new head coach.

After all, isn’t this pretty important to have a coach in place so the right players are there for that coach’s system?

Well, because Kahn decided not to retain Kevin McHale shortly before the draft, there was just not enough time for Kahn to interview all possible candidates. Let me take you through some of the options for the future coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves:

Terry Porter:

His leash at Phoenix was incredibly short although he was coaching a team that was significantly underachieving and the personnel didn’t fit his profile. Porter could be a great fit with a young up-and-coming team that needs to learn how to play good defense. Porter’s name hasn’t really come up yet as a possible hire so I would be surprised if he gets the job. He would, however, be a great hire for an assistant coach if Mark Jackson is the hire.terry-porter

Monty Williams:

The newest name to the search, a former NBA player who has spent time on the Portland bench the last several seasons. We all know how the situation ended up the last time the Wolves went after an assistant for the Blazers – Tom Penn, who ended up getting a raise and some type of promotion within the front office after supposedly getting offered the head GM gig for the Wolves. Williams is sort of an unknown so I would be surprised if they go that way but we are talking about David Kahn here. Kahn seems like he likes to make noise, not  sure if this makes the type of noise he likes.

Mike Fratello:

Veteran coach, supposedly was Kahn’s picked for top assistant which then had McHale saying no thanks. Fratello doesn’t really excite me too much though. He coached the Hawks in the ’80s with Dominique Wilkins, and had mild success in Cleveland during the 90s. His time in Memphis was rather short a few years ago but again, this pick just doesn’t jump out when you have a team of young players like the Wolves.

Bill Laimbeer:

So he’s had some success in the WNBA. Big deal. Laimbeer wasn’t a well liked player during his time in the NBA unless you were a Pistons fan. There is speculation that he could end up as the top assistant in Minnesota, which I am OK with that as long as he’s not the replacement for the new coach when that guy will get fired in a year and a half (probably). I would have rather had Kevin McHale stay on than have Laimbeer get his first shot at coaching here.

Sam Mitchell:

Common sense says Sam Mitchell, the former Wolves player and mentor to Kevin Garnett, should get a look. After having some success at Toronto, he was sent home last year when the Raptors looked horrible. In my opinion, Bryan Colangelo never really thought Mitchell was a good fit so he waited for the right opportunity to let him go. (On a side note: Jay Triano, coach of the Raptors, don’t get too comfortable, Marc Iavaroni was just hired as your assistant. Iavaroni is a Colangelo favorite).

Del Harris:

Here’s an interesting situation. The guy was an assistant for the last 10 years and is 72 years old. Charles Barkley recently came out and said Harris should be the guy for the Wolves.  As a head coach, he’s missed the playoffs once and was fired twice early into his last season’s with Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pretty much the rumored favorite to this point. Jackson was a great floor general during his long NBA career but his lack of any coaching can make people a bit nervous. The ties with Kahn are there (both were part of the Indiana organization at the same time), so I would not be surprised if this were the pick. They have to surround Jackson though with some veteran coaches if he ends up being the guy.

Avery Johnson:

Supposedly the favorite to land the Detroit Pistons job now. Avery has always been an interesting coach, his fire and intensity can be a great thing about him and it can also turn off some players. His experience of playing the point guard position on championship teams and coaching the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA finals makes him a great candidate for any opening but he might be looking more for a sure thing. The Wolves are anything but a sure thing.avery_johnson_vmedwidec

Jeff Van Gundy:

His name seems to come up for almost every open head coaching position. He appears to be happy doing the color commentator gig but like his associate Mark Jackson, there is an itch with these guys that have that competitive spirit. Plus, let me know when the money for being a color commentator is the same as a head coach. Van Gundy likely will not be the next coach for the Wolves but he’d be a great hire.
Now after all these possible targets, there could be other names that jump in the fold. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point but I will say I hope some of the assistants from the last few years are retained. J.B. Bickerstaff who is the same age as plenty of NBA players and son of Bernie Bickerstaff, has been on the Wolves coaching staff the last few years.

He’s got a future in this league as a head coach and I hope he is kept on considering his relationship with players. Jerry Sichting, the top assistant last year, should be given a look to stay on as well. Dean Cooper and Ed Pinckney were newer assistants for the Wolves but I would not be disappointed to see them stick around either. Cooper was the “defensive” coach but as we know, the Wolves weren’t necessarily well equipped in that department.