The Minnesota Timberwolves fired Tom Thibodeau on Sunday and named Ryan Saunders interim head coach. Let’s take a look at some of the names rumored to be long-term replacements.
It was a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ when it came to Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Tyalor ultimately firing Tom Thibodeau, who had been the team’s head coach and president for nearly three years.
Now, the speculation can begin about whom the Wolves should hire as a permanent replacement. But first, some quick context and a summary of where we currently stand.
The firing came on Sunday, shortly after the Timberwolves defeated the Lakers with ease. (Here was our rapid reaction.) The timing may have seemed curious, but there there are plenty of reasons why the timing made plenty of sense.
For one, if the Wolves were going to fire Thibodeau anyways, why not do it now? At 19-21 and three games out of the playoff race, a jolt might be needed if Minnesota is going to have a shot at a second consecutive postseason appearance.
Making the move now gives interim coach Ryan Saunders, who is not your typical interim coach (more on him in a moment), ample opportunity to earn the job moving forward and gives the players someone to play for whom they apparently like a great deal.
Basically, the team won’t be worse by subbing Saunders for Thibodeau, and the team probably wasn’t going to make the playoffs as currently constructed anyway.
The way that the Jimmy Butler saga was handled was poor, to say the least, and it’s clear that the non-Thibs Wolves brass had tired of Thibodeau’s grating personality and management style. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who was the first to break the news of the firing, had a bit more contest in the article posted later on Sunday evening.
"Minnesota CEO Ethan Casson, accompanied by general manager Scott Layden, walked into Thibodeau’s office and fired him after the victory over the Lakers, league sources told ESPN. Thibodeau had no idea his ouster was imminent, sources said. … Thibodeau was surprised over the timing of the dismissal on Sunday, expecting that he might finish the season as coach, sources said. He did not have a strong relationship with Casson, who has lobbied for a coach who worked better with the business side of the organization and inspired fewer problems with public relations. There were concerns on the business side of the Timberwolves about renewing season tickets and sponsorships without a change in basketball operations, sources said. For now, Layden can help navigate the organization through the Feb. 7 trade deadline. Taylor had seriously considered dismissing Layden earlier in the season but stayed with him, sources said."
Okay, let’s break down the candidates who have been named in the media. To be clear, there are no doubt other options out there and the Wolves will certainly interview more than five candidates. But these are the names that have been floated so far, so let’s take a look.