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Updated: May 15th, 2014 4:30pm
Zulgad: No reason to Flip out about length of Wolves' coaching search

Zulgad: No reason to Flip out about length of Wolves' coaching search

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by Judd Zulgad

While the Wild were making a two-round run through the playoffs, many probably have forgotten that the Timberwolves remain without a coach.

The combination of missing the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons and having an up-and-coming team in another sport makes it easy for the local NBA franchise to be out of sight, out of mind.

But now that the Wild is done, let's catch you up on what's been going on with the Wolves.


It's not that Flip Saunders, or anyone else at Target Center, really has fallen asleep. It's just that Saunders seems to be delaying the inevitable press conference at which he will introduce his coach.

That guy has plenty of coaching experience, has previously run the Wolves from the bench and has Minnesota ties.

That guy, of course, is none other than Saunders himself.

Owner Glen Taylor has made it clear to Saunders, the Wolves' president of basketball operations, that he would prefer he picked a coach and not try to do double duty.

But we've learned before that just because Taylor wants something from his basketball operations people doesn't mean he's going to get it. Taylor is as responsible as David Kahn for the fact that Kevin Love didn't get a maximum contract in 2012, but there is little doubt it was Kahn who convinced Taylor of what direction he should take.

Taylor should have informed Kahn right then that he would never listen to him again. That colossal misstep by Kahn and Taylor is one reason why Saunders likely has his name atop the list of potential candidates to coach the Wolves in 2014-15.

Think about the potential interviews that Saunders is conducting.

Flip: "So, do you have any questions about the job?" Candidate A: "Yes, what is Kevin Love's future beyond next season? Will he opt out?" Flip: "We don't know that."

Candidate B: "So, just one question for you, Flip." Flip: "Yes?" Candidate B: "Just between us, has Love told you what he plans to do after this season?" Flip: "Nope, but I'm hopeful." Candidate B: "Well, I have this great offer to sit in ESPN's studios and analyze games. I think I'll take that."

As my weekday co-host, Phil Mackey, has pointed out, if the Wolves had given Love the maximum contract, then the opt-out he likely will exercise after next season wouldn't have been an issue because it wouldn't have existed.

That means that when Rick Adelman decided to retire, the new coach would have arrived in Minnesota knowing that the Wolves roster would be built around Love and Ricky Rubio. That would have given the coach a feeling that he had a real chance at long-term security.

That isn't the case now.

Saunders' initial list of choices was believed to have included Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, Florida's Billy Donovan and Michigan State's Tom Izzo. Hoiberg has elected to remain at Iowa State, Donovan has plenty of security with the Gators and it seems like a long shot that the 59-year-old Izzo would bolt East Lansing, even though he is good friends with Saunders.

The one thing that might change the interest of a guy like Izzo would be if the Wolves land a top pick in the May 20 NBA draft lottery, but for the Wolves luck to change that drastically would be a minor miracle.

There have been other names floated when it comes to the Wolves job, including veteran coaches George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy.

But why would Saunders hire one of these guys over himself? Saunders isn't your traditional personnel guy looking for a head coach. He's also going to examine the hire from the standpoint of having been on an NBA bench for years with the Wolves, Pistons and Wizards.

As for Saunders' pitch to change Taylor's mind about having one person hold two roles, he got some ammunition this week. That came when Stan Van Gundy, whose name also had been attached to the Wolves, accepted a job with the Detroit Pistons as their coach and president of basketball operations.

Saunders can point to this, not to mention the fact that if it doesn't work, he can kick himself back upstairs and possibly promote an assistant from his staff.

Saunders also has one other point he can make to Taylor and this is perhaps the most compelling and goes back to the mess caused partially by the owner.

It was pretty clear from the day that Saunders was hired by the Wolves last May that one of his primary jobs was to smooth over things with Love and try to make the star believe that he was not only wanted but needed.

Since we're reaching critical mass with Love, Saunders might think what better way to try to make a last ditch effort to save Love than to be around him all the time.

Otherwise, Saunders runs the risk of hiring a recycled coach whom Love doesn't like. Worst case, Saunders and Love both don't like the new coach.

Saunders knows there is a way to make sure that doesn't happen and that's why it seems likely he will be handling multiple roles at Target Center in the near future.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd