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.