Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 most successful former Wolves head coaches

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Head coach Flip Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Head coach Flip Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 17: Head coach Flip Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t exactly have an extensive list of ultra-successful former head coaches. Let’s look at the five that found the most success post-Wolves.

As a franchise, the Minnesota Timberwolves have an all-time winning percentage of .396.

It goes without saying that there have been some extremely unsuccessful coaches throughout the 31 seasons of the Wolves’ existence. But that isn’t what this article is about.

Instead, we’re going to look at the five head coaches who have found the most success elsewhere as head coaches after leaving the organization.

To be clear, it’s a fairly low bar to clear. We won’t spend much time talking about Kurt Rambis, who went 32-132 (.195 winning percentage) over two seasons. Since his mercy-firing in 2011, Rambis spent some time away from the bench before assisting Mike D’Antoni with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2013-14.

Then, Rambis parlayed two years as the associate head coach in New York to a 9-19 stint as interim head coach in 2016 following Derek Fisher’s dismissal. Rambis himself was let go a couple of years later after new head coach Jeff Hornacek’s two-year tenure also went down in flames.

But here’s the thing: Rambis’ .327 winning percentage in 28 games in charge of the Knicks far outpaced his tenure with the Wolves. So Rambis still managed to almost land an honorable mention on this list.

To be clear: we’re only considering the work of these coaches after they were let go by the Wolves. You won’t find Rick Adelman on this list, with his 945 career wins before coming to Minnesota; he retired following the 2013-14 season. Also, Sam Mitchell was interim head coach in Minnesota well after his Coach of the Year award-winning season in Toronto.

Okay, let’s take a look at No. 5.

No. 5: Sidney Lowe

  • Head coach of Timberwolves from 1992-94
  • 33-102 record (.244) with Wolves
  • Combined record of 46-126 (.267) as head coach after leaving Wolves

Sidney Lowe was a player on the inaugural Timberwolves squad in 1989-90, appearing in 80 games and starting 38 at point guard. Just two years later, he was on the Wolves bench as an assistant.

Lowe was named Wolves head coach midseason during the 1992-93 campaign after Jimmy Rodgers’ dismissal. Over the next season-plus, Lowe went just 33-102 before he was fired.

Post-Wolves, Lowe was an assistant in Cleveland for five years. Then a second stint as a Wolves assistant and a two-plus year run as head coach of the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies (the team moved to Memphis between his first and second year). An 0-8 start to Year Three ended his NBA head coaching career.

If it feels like Lowe has had four different stints as an assistant with the Wolves, well, it’s because he has.

Lowe returned in 2004-05 under Flip Saunders and again from 2014 to 2016 under Saunders and Sam Mitchell. In between, he’s been an assistant in Detroit (twice), Utah, and Washington. He was also the head coach at North Carolina State from 2006 through 2011, compiling a record of 86-78 (.524) with the Wolfpack.

Okay, on to the top five…