Timberwolves Relieve Sam Mitchell, Become Most Attractive Destination for Coaching Candidates

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty)

The Minnesota Timberwolves demolished the New Orleans Pelicans in their final game of the season.

Thanks to some sorcery from rookie Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota hung 144 points on what's left of a Pels team that's been ravaged by injuries.

After the victory, the Timberwolves announced they'd be relieving interim head coach Sam Mitchell, who took over after the tragic loss of NBA lifer Flip Saunders, of his duties atop their coaching chain of command.

As unenviable a position as it is to take over for a team legend soon after his death, in just about every other way Mitchell had a job that should make other coaches jealous.

He had last year's Rookie of the Year in Andrew Wiggins, this season's surefire ROY in Towns, a two-time NBA dunk champion in sophomore Zach LaVine, and grizzled veteran and former NBA champ Kevin Garnett to keep them all in line.

But Mitchell couldn't do much with the talented yet shallow roster, puzzlingly clinging to the hope that Kevin Martin and Tayshaun Prince would find Bill and Ted's time machine and retrieve the 2005 versions of themselves as Minnesota played to a 29-win season.

Now, with one of the most insanely talented corps of youngsters and another high draft pick on the way, Minnesota—never a preferred destination because of a winter that would make the Night's Watch's teeth clatter—may have their pick of the league's top coaching candidates.

Jeff Van Gundy seems to always flirt with the idea of jumping back into the sidelines, only to retreat to the friendly combines of his ESPN analyst chair. Scott Brooks is by all accounts a great guy and a former Timberwolves player, but has never been accused of being a master tactician.

Thibodeau, on the other hand, could be an intriguing match. He's said that upon his return to the coaching ranks he'd like a say in player personnel, and the Timberwolves are also in search of a new president of basketball operations.

"The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves has never been brighter,'' team owner Glen Taylor said in a statement. "It's important that we find the best leaders to shape our talented team and help them realize their full potential.''

With another hit in the draft and some smart moves in free agency, Minnesota—one of only nine teams to beat the Golden State Warriors this season—could just be one or two years away from contending.

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