Wolfson: An update on Wolves coaching search with names to monitor
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The last time the Timberwolves sought a new coach they interviewed at least seven candidates: Rick Adelman, Don Nelson (finished runner-up), Terry Porter, Bernie Bickerstaff, Larry Brown, Sam Mitchell, and Mike Woodson.
This time around could be as extensive. All is relatively quiet, however, after nine official days of the search, and many more behind the scenes. Sources close to the situation tell 1500espn.com that two strong contenders -- 2013 coach of the year George Karl and former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins -- haven't been contacted yet. Contrary to another report, multiple sources indicate that Karl would love the opportunity to coach the Wolves and he's hoping his phone rings soon.
An informal poll of college coaches, NBA coaches, front office executives, and agents in the last week has Michigan State coach Tom Izzo at 50/50 to work in the NBA next season. The Wolves and Pistons have interest. Wolves minority owner and president of operations Flip Saunders and Izzo are close friends. Izzo doesn't have an agent, but if he needs one he's expected to use Minneapolis-based Gary O'Hagan. If Izzo wants the Wolves' job, sources opine that he can have it.
As ESPN first reported, Florida coach Billy Donovan is another name on the Wolves' list. Those who know Donovan insist he's not married to Gainesville. But nobody is convinced he'd jump at a chance to come to Minnesota.
Coaches currently in the playoffs believed to be on the hot seat include Indiana's Frank Vogel and Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks. Sources say neither would register on the Wolves' radar if either became available. Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who has two years left on his contract, would. But there's no sense the Bulls will fire him. Trading for Thibodeau, while possible, is unlikely.
Mitchell wants another opportunity to impress the Wolves' decision-makers, but there's no sense that he'll be in the mix. The same goes for Warriors assistant Lindsey Hunter, who played for Saunders in Detroit. He was the interim head coach in Phoenix last year for 41 games.
Former Wolves point guard Sam Cassell, who played for Saunders, is thought to be an up-and-comer serving as an assistant in Washington. But those close to the situation would be very surprised if he got the Wolves' job.
Rockets assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, a former Wolves broadcaster and assistant, will land some head coaching job in the near future, but it's doubtful it'll be Minnesota this summer. He did interview for the Detroit, Phoenix, and Milwaukee openings last offseason. The idea of Bickerstaff as a coach-in-waiting might make some sense on the surface, but it's doubtful Houston would release him for his contract for another assistant position.
Despite numerous public pleas by owner Glen Taylor downplaying this possibility, Saunders remains a name to monitor.
It does make sense if Izzo and Donovan say no, to have Saunders mentor someone for a couple years. Chauncey Billups' name is total speculation, but he remains close with Saunders. Saunders coached Billups with the Wolves and Pistons and nearly signed him as a free agent last July. Billups might prefer a front office position over coaching.