Wolves coaching search: Down to Joerger and Mitchell?


Apr 26, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger looks on during game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at FedExForum. Thunder defeated the Grizzlies 92-89. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

In an interesting turn of events, the Wolves are reportedly interviewing Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach and Minnesota native Dave Joerger at some point today.

According to Sam Amick, the contact between the Wolves and Joerger may have even happened before Memphis’ recent front office and organizational shakeup that including the firing of multiple top executives and left Joerger wanting to leave and much of management wanting Joerger out as well.

The whole thing is eminently confusing, as Joerger managed to win 50 games and take the Thunder to seven games in the first round of the playoffs, despite their best player (March Gasol) only playin in 59 games and being less-than-100% when he did return after having mid-season knee surgery.

Joerger was the top assistant and defensive coordinator under former head coach Lionel Hollins when the Grizzlies vaulted to the top defensive team in the league while making it to the Western Conference Finals last season before losing to the San Antonio Spurs. Joerger also had won a string of minor league basketball championships prior to becoming a Grizzlies assistant about seven years ago.

He’s an innovative coach with an understanding of analytics and a willingness to cater his coaching style and the way that he wants his teams to play on both ends of the floor to the talent that is actually on the roster, which is certainly something that Wolves’ fans aren’t necessarily accustomed to enjoying. At just 39 years of age and coming off of a 50-win season, he would be a dream selection at coach, especially compared to the apparent alternative.

Long-time Wolves player and Kevin Garnett-mentor Sam Mitchell is also strongly in the running for the head coaching position. Sam I Am last coached as a New Jersey Nets assistant in 2010-2011 after serving as the head coach in Toronto from 2004-2008. He won Coach of the Year in 2007 after Toronto won 47 games with an…interesting mix of players. Reportedly, he wasn’t exactly a players-coach, and was ultimately fired after a 8-9 start to the 2008-2009 season.

It’s tough to feel anything other than trepidation with the possibility of a Mitchell hire, even though he was fairly successful in Toronto. Clearly, Wolves’ owner Glen Taylor makes a number of business decisions based on past relationships and who he feels “comfortable” with, as he said as much when he re-hired Flip Saunders to run the basketball operations department.

This is worrisome, especially since Mitchell has hardly garnered interviews from teams around the league since being let go by the Raptors. Why would the Wolves be the only team onto Mitchell, and what about his track record suggests that he’d suddenly lead the Wolves to the promised land?

On the other hand, Joerger took an oft-injured, thin, offensively-challenged Grizzlies squad to a 50-win season and the brink of the second round of the playoffs. He’s young, innovative, and, of course, also familiar with Saunders and the great state of Minnesota. He checks all the boxes except for extensive experience, although he certainly paid his dues in the minors.

Let’s hope that Flip and Glen do the right thing. Keep your ear to the ground today and expect some clarity at some point this afternoon or evening, after the alleged meeting with Joerger takes place.