I had originally planned this as the next post in the Everything You Think You Know About the Wolves Is Wrong series but in between putting on a new roof, installing 1/2 of a new furnace pipe system, having my eldest daughter's swim club change up her training hours (which provide the vast majority of my internets time), and finding out that I will be a father for the third time (which has vastly expanded my Honey-Do list) I haven't had much time of late to put in the type of research that a post in that series deserves. Plus, it's looking more and more like the Wolves will simply roll with Kevin McHale at the head of the bench so this may be a moot debate from the get-go.
Opening up the discussion, I would first like to offer a sincere apology to Darren Wolfson for his inclusion in a post about the local media meme of the need for David Kahn to fire McHale and bring in Sam Mitchell. Mr. Wolfson is not in the league of villains that I lumped him in with and I was reminded/reprimanded by several readers that he did not deserve such crass treatment from yours truly. Agreed. I will offer no justifications or qualifiers for my take. It was an unclassy and uncalled attack on Mr. Wolfson and I thank those of you who called me on the BS. This site does not have any editors and, outside of our own judgment, we depend on your input to keep things on the level. Thank you for that.
Getting back to Mitchell, let me also say that my opposition to him being hired as a coach comes at a considerable cost to my Wolves fandom, as he is my all-time favorite Wolf, bar-none. There are also some solid non-homerish reasons for wanting him to come back to the Target Center. Darren lays them out in a post that you can read here.
Realizing full-well that the following argument should have a lot more attached to it in terms of back-up, here are the four main reasons why I think Mitchell would work out for the Wolves about as well as a painting with an incorrectly spelled jersey:
- The Raptors really did not improve under his watch. His tenure is marked by ups and downs in both record and OE/DE. He may have been partially done in by bad front office shopping, but that was the case throughout his time with the team. Go take a look at the Rob Babcock-aided rosters during each of his years in Toronto. The bad shopping was always there. Guess what, the shopping here has been even worse! With McHale, I think there is something approaching cosmic justice to having the guy who brought the bacon home for so long having to put on an apron in order to prove that it's not just the cooking that was wrong. I think it is even more interesting that he may be saddled down with his very own head-coach-in-waiting a'la Witt to his Casey.
- Having a poor (and young) team led him to make some pretty short-term decisions about his squad. For instance, Mitchell clearly equated good play with solid jump shooting and this led the Raptors, under his watch, to have a substantial decline in FTAs during each consecutive season (2101 in his 1st season, 1658 in his last full year) as well as seeing a large decrease in the number of three point attempts. In other words, safe mid-range jump shots became preferable to threes and forays into the lane because those shots have much more potential to bring down your shooting percentage. This is not a winning recipe for the modern NBA. It is also not a good fit for the Wolves' roster, both in its current form and the Orlando-esque inside/out model that Kahn has hinted at. 3s and getting to the line are 2 of the most important parts of the modern NBA game and Mitchell has shown that he can deliver neither.
- His in-game management is not better than Kevin McHale's. This is where I wish I had more time to flesh out my argument. You can take this point with a grain of salt as it is pretty subjective. Keeping this ball rolling, I know there is more to being an NBA coach than this (media, community relations, lots and lots of time) and that you can hire assistants to help with the in-game stuff, but I think McHale has one thing Mitchell does not: the potential to be an upper-level ego manager, which is hopefully something that a Minnesota basketball team will have to worry about somewhere down the line. This brings us to point #4:
- His players may not have liked/trusted him. Former #1 pick Andrea Bargnani took a swipe at Mitchell earlier this year and his comments are probably analogous to what Wolves players felt about Randy Wittman during the dark days of early December. In terms of temperament, wouldn't Mitchell be more along the lines of Witt than any other coaching prospect out there? Even if you don't buy the players-not-liking-him bit, the Raptors signed his replacement to a 3 year deal and players were saying things about him that Wolves players are saying about McHale (i.e. keep him). Darren mentions that Mitchell had a better record than Jay Triano but the Raptors finished the season with a 9-4 run (their very own January) and some encouraging signs from their core players. The guy didn't get a 3 year deal for nothing.
Is Mitchell a solid option for the Wolves? He was a wonderful player for the squad and he apparently was a good quote for the local media. The question here is this: Does he fit the Wolves vision and does he do so better than Kevin McHale? I say absolutely not. What say you?