9:00pm: Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger is among the candidates the Wolves will consider, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com tweets. The ESPN scribe also notes that Mitchell won’t be among the coaches considered for the post. Team owner Glen Taylor has hired the search firm Korn Ferry to help in the hunt for a new coach as well as a new president of basketball operations, though the team may elect to hire one person for both slots, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press relays.
A chance exists that the team will circle back to Mitchell, but it appears to be a long shot, as Krawczynski details. Minnesota’s plans also throw into question the future of Newton, as the new president of basketball operations would decide whether to retain him, Krawczynski writes. Wojnarowski wrote earlier that it was unclear whether Newton would remain atop the basketball operations department, but Newton isn’t initially a candidate for the president of basketball operations job, according to Krawczynski. It’s possible the next coach and president of basketball operations will be the same person, as Taylor is intrigued with the success the Pistons have had under coach/executive Stan Van Gundy, Wojnarowski hears.
3:07pm: The Timberwolves coaching search will include Mitchell as part of candidate process, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical relays (on Twitter). Minnesota’s current coaching short-list includes Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, Wojnarowski adds.
1:37pm: The growing belief around the NBA coaching community is that the Timberwolves will elect not to retain coach Sam Mitchell, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Wolves only assured Mitchell of the head coaching position through this season when he took over for the late Flip Saunders this fall, and Mitchell’s contract doesn’t cover next season, Stein notes (on Twitter). Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Shabazz Muhammad have endorsed Mitchell’s return in the past few days, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link) and Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press have noted, but it appears that might not be enough to save the coach’s job.
Minnesota is just 28-53 this season under Mitchell, but it’s a significant improvement on last season’s 16-66 record, and not much was expected from the youthful roster despite the presence of Wiggins and Towns, the last two No. 1 overall picks. The team has shown promise, particularly in a win at Golden State earlier this month, and Towns has swept the league’s Rookie of the Month honors thus far. Mitchell was to have continued serving as an assistant coach this season but took the head coaching reigns in September while Saunders suffered complications from cancer treatment. Saunders died in October, a few days before opening night.
“We’ve done a great job this year, especially the coaching staff,” Towns said this week, as Krawczynski relays. “With the tragedy happening, I think they did a great job for us this year.”
Veteran leader Kevin Garnett made it known earlier this season that Mitchell has his support after speculation to the contrary, but it’s unclear whether Garnett, who turns 40 next month, will return to play next season. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will make the call on whether to retain Mitchell, Taylor said, though he added that he’ll solicit the input of GM Milt Newton. Taylor said last month that Newton would keep his job through the summer, at least.