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Wolves: Next coach must have ‘clout’ with players

By Andy Greder

St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves would like their next head coach to have a successful track record and maintain a similar offensive identity to the one established by outgoing coach Rick Adelman, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.

Ultimately, Saunders said, it needs to be someone who can elicit some buy-in.

“We would like to bring in someone that ... that can carry some clout with our players,” Saunders told reporters on Monday.

With Adelman stepping down as head coach and becoming a consultant, Saunders said he and owner Glen Taylor will meet to discuss the kind of coach they want, then put together a list of candidates and gauge interest.

On Monday, Saunders offered no timeline for a hire and didn’t rule himself out as a candidate. The last coach to lead the Timberwolves to the postseason in 2003-04, Saunders has coached 1,164 games in 16 seasons as an NBA head coach.

“We are going to do a search,” he said, “and the search isn’t just coming to talk to me.”

Taylor has recently said he would like Saunders to remain in his role as president of basketball operations.

Whoever the next coach is, Saunders said, he will need to make a positive impression on the team’s current roster, especially all-star Kevin Love, who can opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

Still, Saunders downplayed the potential influence of a star player. Saunders coached the Wolves for nine-plus seasons, and said if all of Kevin Garnett’s roster suggestions had been granted, those Wolves teams would have looked a lot different.

“I believe what you do is you talk (about) maybe characteristics that people look at, but you never put a player — any player, no matter who he is — in that light where they are making a decision,” he said. “It’s not fair to him; it’s not fair to the person that you bring in. So I wouldn’t do that.”

Saunders was careful to not rule anything out.

“It’s going to be an extensive search,” he said. “We are going to look in a lot of different areas.”

He said NBA coaching experience is not necessarily a prerequisite, and that assistants on playoff teams could be in the mix. “You might find someone that you feel has an opportunity to be a diamond in the rough,” he said.

Saunders said his coaching background and current role as an evaluator make him uniquely qualified to hire a head coach.

“I believe I have a pretty broad knowledge about a lot of those coaches, and because of that I’m looking forward to it,” Saunders said. “I do have a vision on how I believe the team needs to be to be successful. It’s a matter of having someone that shares that same vision.”

Saunders also said he doesn’t feel it’s necessary to hire a coach before the June draft.

“I believe we will ... have people that are going to be able to start working with players that we have in development, which is going to be a big key,” he said. “Having been a coach myself, I think we can at least lead through this transition period.”

Here are a handful of potential candidates with ties to either Minnesota or Sanders:


The franchise’s president of basketball operations coach the Timberwolves for nearly 10 years and didn’t rule out a return to the sideline, though he promised “it’s going to be an extensive search.”


A popular thought, but the Iowa State coach was ruled out Monday by Saunders on WCCO-AM. “That’s not happening,” he said of the former Wolves shooting guard and front office member who recently got a $600,000 raise to stay in his hometown of Ames.


The Michigan State coach is close with Saunders, but is the most popular person in East Lansing, Mich. And recently dismissed speculation he was a candidate for the Detroit Pistons vacancy.


Longtime NBA coach has led Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee and Denver. Named NBA coach of the year for 2012-13 with the Nuggets, he took the Sonics to the 1996 NBA Finals. Wants to coach again, and would bring “clout” Saunders wants.


Current Florida coach led the Gators to a 36-3 record and NCAA Final Four appearance last season. Once accepted, then rejected the Orlando Magic job but recently told reporters he would not rule out taking an NBA job, and was mentioned as a candidate Monday by ESPN.


Coached Miami and Orlando, taking Magic to NBA Finals in 1995. Would bring experience coveted by Saunders, who is close with Van Gundy’s younger brother, Jeff.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is in a media partnership with Forum News Service.