After failing to lure away Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger last month, Timberwolves president and part-owner Flip Saunders has chosen himself to be Minnesota's next head coach. The news was first reported by Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.
The Wolves have been in the market for a new head coach since Rick Adelman elected to step down in April. Since that time, Minnesota has reportedly been linked to a carousel of candidates including ex-Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, former Wolves player Sam Mitchell, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and Joerger, who recently re-upped with Memphis. Mitchell, who worked as a broadcaster this season, will join Saunders' staff as an assistant. Saunders is also expected to reach out to Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, former Wolves player and coach Sidney Lowe and current Pistons guard Chauncey Billups.
Saunders previously coached the Timberwolves from 1995-2005, during which the team posted a record of 411-326 (.558). In 1997 he led Minnesota to its first playoff berth in franchise history, though little postseason success came after; although the Wolves went on to make the playoffs in each of the next seven seasons under Saunders, only once did they advance beyond the first round. Saunders was fired during the 2004-05 season by then-general manager Kevin McHale, who -- coincidentally -- then named himself as the team's next head coach. Minnesota has not made the playoffs or had a winning season since.
That failure to qualify for the postseason in recent years has complicated Minnesota's bid to retain All-NBA forward Kevin Love. Although Love's contract technically runs through 2016, the final year of his deal is a player option that would allow Love to enter unrestricted free agency a year earlier. Love has reportedly expressed to team team officials that he intends to decline his option and do just that. The pressure of that timeline has forced the Wolves to at least consider trading Love, although they remain understandably ambivalent about the prospect. Saunders insisted publicly that he expects Love to be on the Wolves' roster this season, even as rumors swirl (and legitimate queries are made) regarding the three-time All-Star's possible departure.
"The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year," Saunders said on Sunday. "I don't really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.
“I know there’s a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here.”
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