Minnesota Timberwolves Roundup: Coaching search, Teague opts in

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 10: Head Coach Ryan Saunders and Jeff Teague #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 10: Head Coach Ryan Saunders and Jeff Teague #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have an interesting next few months ahead of themselves, and there’s already been a bit of news in the first few days of the offseason.

For the the third time in the last six offseasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves enter mid-April with a question mark at the head coaching spot.

An organization that had been (rightfully) bashed for its adherence to the so-called “country club” all the way through the re-hiring of Flip Saunders and elevation of Sam Mitchell to interim head coach took a sudden hard-right turn when the keys to the bench and the front office were handed to Tom Thibodeau almost exactly three years ago.

Now, we’re back to having a Saunders squatting on the sidelines and clapping encouragement to his players, Jerry Sichting holding down an assistant coach role, and Randy Wittman lurking in the wings, waiting for his chance. (Just kidding on that last part. I hope.)

Ryan Saunders went 17-25 as interim head coach after taking over in early January. We’ll have a more complete evaluation of the team’s performance under Saunders a bit later, but it’s fair to say that the results he coaxed out of his beleaguered squad were a mixed bag. With key players missing plenty of games due to injury and the stench of the Jimmy Butler saga still lingering in the halls of Target Center, the hand that Saunders’ was dealt was anything but complete.

Already the rumor mill suggests that owner Glen Taylor is preparing to offer Saunders a multiyear deal to remain as head coach, although he is at least going through the motions of hiring a president of basketball operations first. It could be counter-intuitive, however: if the fix is in on Saunders, how might the affect the pool of candidates for the POBO job?

There’s also the news that Dave Joerger has been fired by the Sacramento Kings. Joerger, a Minnesota native, flirted with the Wolves’ head coaching gig prior to accepting a raise to stay in Memphis. That lead to then-team president Flip Saunders hiring himself as head coach back in the summer of 2014.

I’m on record as supporting Joerger’s candidacy; he would have been a fine choice prior to the hiring of Tom Thibodeau in 2016 and was just fired after finding more wins for the Kings organization than they’d enjoyed since Rick Adelman was at the helm — seriously. Back in January, I laid out a list of potential coaching candidates and Joerger topped that list, too.

For now, the next step is the search for a new president of basketball operations. Until that happens, don’t expect much coaching news. But the carousel is moving quickly — the Kings are about to hire former Lakers coach Luke Walton less than 24 hours after his firing — and the Wolves would be well-served to get moving.

Also, an unrelated but important housekeeping item: Jeff Teague has decided to exercise his $19 million player option for next season. It isn’t surprising, as the 30-year-old guard wouldn’t get close to that number in today’s market, especially coming off an injury-riddled campaign that saw him play in just 42 games.

All things considered, it’s nice to have Teague in the fold as the Wolves have been a solid team when he’s available. There’s always the possibility that the Wolves are able to move his expiring deal this summer, too, depending on how everything else shakes out.

We’ll be back soon with more thoughts on the front office and head coach searches, as well as our player review series. Then, it’s draft time.

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Enjoy the NBA playoffs, everyone.