Minnesota Timberwolves: The head coaching search begins

DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Head Coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Head Coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have opened up the head coaching search to outside candidates before making a decision on the future of Ryan Saunders.

This week, the Minnesota Timberwolves began scheduling interviews as part of the process of finding a head coach for the 2019-20 season and beyond. This news should delight fans of the team as it seems the Timberwolves are finally behaving like a well-organized franchise. The new president of basketball operations, Gersson Rosas, is putting his best foot forward to ensure success for the Timberwolves’ future.

While some people may see this news as an indictment on the interim head coach, Ryan Saunders, reports have been quick to point out that Ryan Saunders remains among the candidates. In fact, I still believe that Saunders is the front-runner to be the team’s head coach. A full coaching search can only help reassure the front office and fanbase of the decision they ultimately make.

The Front-Runners

Recent reports have named four candidates who are expected to interview for the head coaching position: Juwan Howard, David Vanterpool, Darvin Ham, and Chris Finch. All of these candidates will be competing for the position alongside interim head coach, Ryan Saunders.

Several of these candidates have playing experience in the NBA with former all-star Juwan Howard being the most notable among the group. Howard immediately transitioned from a player into an assistant coaching role with the Miami Heat. He has been a key part of the player development in Miami since joining their staff in 2013.

David Vanterpool has had a slightly different trajectory than Howard, spending most of his playing time overseas. Vanterpool made the same player to assistant transition when he joined the coaching staff for CSKA Moscow, helping to develop the talent of the former Timberwolves’ guard, Alexey Shved. Since 2012, Vanterpool has served as the assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Darvin Ham is a different type of candidate, bringing a wealth of experience as an assistant coach for the Lakers, Hawks, and Bucks. Ham has a great track record as a player development coach, including his time in Atlanta working with current Timberwolves’ player, Jeff Teague. Ham joined the Milwaukee Bucks last year as their top assistant coach, helping the team become the contender they are now.

Last but not least of the named candidates is Chris Finch. He may be the most important name to keep an eye on as he also has an impressive resume of coaching experience. Finch began his coaching career with 2010 coach of the year honors in the NBA D-League. He then joined the Houston Rockets’ staff as an assistant coach, working alongside the Timberwolves new president of basketball operations, Gersson Rosas. Finch has also spent time as an associate head coach in Denver and currently is the associate head coach in New Orleans. Chris Finch is ready to make the leap into a head coaching position and already has a good relationship with Gersson Rosas, making him a very intriguing candidate.

While all of these candidates are suitable for the position, one of them would likely have to blow the Wolves away during the search process in order to beat out Ryan Saunders for the job. Saunders continues to prepare for next season as if he will be the head coach, but the team is making the smart decision of conducting a full search before handing the job to Saunders.

The Dark Horses

Gersson Rosas has taken an interesting approach to this coaching search by scheduling interviews with younger assistant coaches who are looking to make the transition into the next stage of their careers. While I would expect one of the names previously mentioned to eventually be offered the job, don’t be surprised if Minnesota also takes a look at a few more available coaches on the market.

One name that has been connected to Minnesota in the past is Minnesota-native, Dave Joerger. Joerger was recently fired by the Sacramento Kings following an impressive season with the young squad. His coaching career has been a confusing one thus far, after successful seasons in both Memphis and Sacramento and yet was fired by both due to issues with management.

A couple of other interesting names to watch are San Antonio Spurs’ assistant coaches Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina. Hammon recently coached the Spurs summer league team and is expected to be the first woman to become an NBA head coach in the near future. Meanwhile, Messina is also a member of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree and has already taken interviews for numerous head coaching positions in the past. If all other avenues are exhausted, Minnesota could still turn to the unemployed Tom Thibodeau as their next head coach (I’m kidding, please don’t riot).

Stay tuned to Dunking with Wolves for all of the latest news regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves head coaching search.