If the Wolves employ a coach-in-waiting, who are Flip's candidates?
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
The Minnesota Timberwolves' coaching search has come to an end with a result that some believe was inevitable. Six weeks after Rick Adelman announced his retirement, Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has decided to return to the post he vacated a decade ago and name himself head coach, at least for the short-term.
But what is Saunders' long-term plan?
Saunders may already be shaping up plans for his eventual successor. The thought is that Saunders could be at the helm for one or two seasons before handing off the head coaching duties to an assistant on his staff.
With that in mind, who could be the Wolves' coach-in-waiting?
Euroleague coach David Blatt appears to be Saunders' No. 1 target.
Blatt is one of the premier coaches on the international level. He has coached overseas for more than 20 years, leading his teams to numerous league titles. Most recently, he guided Israel Super League squad Maccabi Tel Aviv to the 2014 Euroleague championship. In his six years as coach of the Russian national team (2006-12), the country won gold at the 2007 FIBA EuroBasket championships and earned bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.
Blatt has been in the mix for NBA coaching positions in the past, but the knock against him has been a lack of experience at the NBA level. Joining Saunders' staff could be the perfect proving ground for him.
The Wolves likely will have to wait at least a week before pursuing him. Maccabi Tel Aviv is in the Israel League finals, which run into next week. Blatt's agent is former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who recently worked on Steve Kerr's deal with the Golden State Warriors.
If the Wolves are able to land Blatt as an assistant, it could be a key move in setting up the team's future.
Blatt isn't the only candidate for Saunders' staff. Chauncey Billups has been floated by several sources as a likely possibility. Billups' name has come up recently as an option for several NBA job openings. His current team, the Detroit Pistons, have a $2.5 million option for next season. If he wants to move to his next chapter in basketball, working for Saunders, his head coach for five years in stops with the Wolves and Pistons, would be a prime way to ease into the coaching world.
Sam Mitchell is a near-lock to join the Wolves' staff. Mitchell played for Saunders in Minnesota for seven seasons (1995-2002). The former head coach of the Toronto Raptors (2004-2008) has been out of coaching for two years, but could be deserving of another shot in the NBA. Mitchell was reportedly a candidate in the Wolves' search for head coach. Coming aboard as an assistant would be a fitting solution.