Hoops Rumors Community Shootaround 9/11/15

The Timberwolves have named assistant coach Sam Mitchell as interim head coach while Flip Saunders continues to battle cancer, which was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports on Thursday. The team still has the hope that Saunders will be able to return to his coaching duties sometime during the coming campaign. The first concern, of course, is with Saunders’ health. But the franchise also has to worry about the coming campaign, which will be an important one, as it needs to determine which of its talented young players are long-term building blocks.

This brings me to today’s topic: How will the absence of Flip Saunders affect the Timberwolves’ 2015/16 season?

The Timberwolves are not expected to be title contenders this season, and the team will need to show marked improvement to even have a shot at a playoff berth in the notoriously difficult Western Conference. Mitchell has previous head coaching experience, having spent four plus seasons as coach of the Raptors from 2004/05 through part of the 2008/09 campaign. Through 345 regular season games Mitchell has compiled a mark of 156-189, and he owns a lackluster 3-8 postseason mark. He was named Coach of the Year back in 2007, when he guided Toronto to a 47-35 regular season record, and secured the Atlantic Division crown.

Advancing to the playoffs would be a huge step for the Wolves as a franchise, but that should be considered a secondary goal in 2015/16. The team’s priority should be to develop the wealth of young talent it possesses on the roster. Mitchell, being a former NBA player, may have an advantage over Saunders in that regard, having had first hand experience regarding what is required to be an NBA player. Mitchell does have the reputation of being more of a staunch disciplinarian than Saunders, and it’s unknown how that may affect the team’s locker room chemistry.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Will the absence of Saunders hamper the team’s development, or will things remain status quo in Minnesota this season? What chance do you give Mitchell of having the interim tag removed from his title and officially becoming the head coach? He is a favorite of owner Glen Taylor after having spent 10 seasons with the franchise as a player, which certainly won’t hurt Mitchell’s cause.

Take to the comments to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic. We look forward to what you have to say.

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5 thoughts on “Hoops Rumors Community Shootaround 9/11/15

    • Chuck Myron

      Well, player/coaches aren’t allowed under the current rules, but he’s more or less a de facto assistant, anyway. In any case, I think Mitchell’s a skilled coach, and the young Wolves will develop smoothly under his watch. The job is Flip’s when he returns full health if he still wants it, however.

      Perhaps more interesting is what happens with Milt Newton in control of the front office. It’s his first time in that sort of a role.

  1. Dana Gauruder

    That shouldn’t be much of an issue, as Sam Mitchell is an experienced head coach.

  2. Chris Crouse

    Mitchell is an experienced coach who had a nice run in Toronto. The team will be in good hands.

  3. Robert G.

    A little late to the conversation, but wanted to offer this thought: In retrospect, it’s clear to me now that Flip knew he might not be around all year. Not that he doesn’t trust Mitchell and his staff, but I think he is trying a pretty interesting strategy here, one that’s not getting enough attention. He’s got three very wise veterans on this team of young pups, and he’s putting a lot of emphasis on them being defensive coaches on the floor and mentors in the locker room. I can’t remember another team committing this much to so many older veterans–committing minutes and on-court authority. It’s an interesting strategy for bringing along young talent, one that is getting much less attention than, say, the Sixers strategy or the Celtics strategy.

    We’ll see whether this will allow these kids to grow into their roles more quickly, especially defensively. The Wolves were horrible defensively last year, as is to be expected when so many minutes go to very young guys. But Garnett, Miller, and Prince will demand a lot from these guys, and that’ll be great. Prince, in particular, is in an interesting spot. I expect he signed a deal with the Wolves with the mutual understanding that he might coach himself out of a job in MN after 3-4 months…if Wiggins and Muhammed figure it out defensively, and Prince has re-established his credentials around the league, I expect he’ll be traded to a contender before the deadline.

    The Wolves will do okay without Flip for a while but he’s really been a big presence all over the place here, and if his absence goes deep into 2016 I think that will be a challenge for the franchise as a whole.


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