For a moment, it looked like the Minnesota Timberwolves were going to be naming Dave Joerger as their new head coach after he met with owner Glen Taylor on Saturday. But Joerger has decided to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies for a second season as their head coach, and the Timberwolves will continue their search for Rick Adelman’s replacement. With the uncertain status of All-Star forward Kevin Love surely hampering the search for a new coach, the list of viable candidates seems to be dwindling quickly.
Sam Mitchell has been mentioned as a candidate for the Timberwolves’ job to some degree since Adelman chose to retire, and as a former player and original Timberwolf he carries some acumen and familiarity to fans. But Mitchell also has some success as a head coach on his resume, leading the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs twice in four-plus seasons at the helm and taking home NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2007.
Mitchell fell to the back burner among coaching candidates for Minnesota as momentum built toward a potential hiring of Joerger, but he has already had a meeting with president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and presumably would not need to interview again. Saunders also coached Mitchell as a player with the Timberwolves for seven seasons (1995-1996 through 2001-2002), so that familiarity makes the pairing a good fit on the surface.
Mitchell has been out of coaching since serving as an assistant with the New Jersey Nets during the 2010-2011 season, but he has remained close to the league as a television analyst and radio host. He played 13 seasons in the NBA after being a third-round pick and playing in the CBA, so Mitchell would command respect from the players and get the most out what will likely be a Love-less Timberwolves’ roster next season and beyond. It’s possible another candidate emerges during this holiday-shortened week, but Mitchell is the right man for the job and it would surprise me if he’s not announced as the Timberwolves’ new head coach very soon.