What a terrifying week to be a Wolves lifer.
In the last 8 days, we've gone from the elation of inevitably hiring the bright, homestate grown basketball mind of Dave Joerger away from a seemingly self-destructing Grizzlies ship, to staring at the possibility of Vin Del Negro. A future bleaker than the locker At World's End.
I'll just let Davy Jones kill me, if it's all the same to you.
The Dave Joerger situation fell apart in the most Timberwolvesian way. After desperately seeking a way out of Memphis, interviews with both Saunders and Taylor that reportedly went as well as could have been hoped for, and Dave's dad telling FoxSports that coaching the Wolves 'would be a dream come true' for his son, Joerger did an about face basically overnight and declared he'd remain with the Grizzlies.
The Wolves have 3 second round picks this year, and regardless of what happens with Love, they aren't going to camp with four rookies. So spending a couple of those second rounders to get Memphis to let go of Joerger should not have even been a debate. But by all account, talks never even got to the matter of compensation. So...?
I think, if you take all the pieces and put them together, you get a fairly clear picture of what happened.
Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is a different kind of cat. Whether he's a genius prodigy or an absurd kid with a sense of false entitlement probably depends on what kind of life you've lived. The guy quit an executive engineering job at Apple when he was 27 year old because it 'wasn't bringing [him] success fast enough'. And I suppose having that work in his favor...his own company Ubiquiti went public, making him an overnight billionaire at age 34....would make the guy think he could bend reality to his will. He obviously did something right.
Which would explain why he would attend all of four Grizzlies game this year, still feel justified in firing his team's CEO (who happened to broker his purchase of the team, no less), let his coach interview with other teams, draw up a list of coaches to replace him, then decide his coach should stay and talk him into it. And not care at all about media or fan perception of any of that.
Were I to make a semi-educated guess at what happened, it'd go something like this:
Pera wants Joerger our. Joerger interviews with Flip and it goes well. Of course it would. They have history together. And Dave wants out of Memphis either way. Joerger then interviews with Taylor. This goes well too. Taylor and Flip decide they don't want to spend anything in compensation for a guy they're convinced will be fired anyway. So they send Joerger back to Pera with instructions to say he's staying, assuming Pera will say 'get out'.
Instead, Pera has a change of heart of calls the bluff or is on weed or something, and instead says 'great, you should stay! Here's why...'
Pera: I'll give you a raise
Pera: I already have the kind of roster you need to make your system work
Pera: I'll actually be here watching the games this year. We can get to know each other for real
Pera: Oh, and I'll go however far over the salary cap it takes to win!
Joerger: HMMMMMMMMMM OK
I agree with Eric. Pera sold Joerger. But I think it had less to do with personal charisma and a lot more to do with money. Taylor's cost cutting is no secret. If Pera promised to spend what Taylor wouldn't....well....
It's hard to say if this is more on the Wolves or the Grizzlies. I can fault Glen for saying he wouldn't spend like Pera would. But I can't really fault Glen for not going to the compensation table. Joerger was going to be fired. Pera put together a list...a real, actual, reported by the media sheet...of coaches he planned to replace Joerger with.
And to those thinking this is just a game of chicken (which I understand. I thought it was too at first) Joerger has officially signed a contract extension with Memphis. It's over. He's not an option anymore.
Then yesterday, we get his with a Vinny Del Negro scare:
Ok, Flip. You win. Coach away.
Look, I get why Del Negro looks ok on paper. He had two .500 seasons in Chicago. He coached Derrick Rose in a not-horrible fashion. He took the Clippers from 32-50 to 56-26 and the playoffs. He appears successful.
But here's the thing: a LOT of that is circumstance. Start with the fact he's had the luxury of the two best (when Rose is healthy) point guards in the league on his roster.
Second: his 'development' of Rose is vastly overstated.
|Derrick Rose||PER||WS/48||Wins Produced|
|08-09 (Del Negro)||16.0||.078||4.8|
|09-10 (Del Negro)||18.6||.100||5.2|
In his first two seasons (both under VDN) Rose was an average player. As soon as Thibs took over...in just his third year....he exploded, spiking his PER and doubling his 'winning'. Del Negro didn't develop Rose. In fact, an argument can be made he actually held him back.
I said it on the Hoopus Twitter feed and I'll say it here:
There's a difference between telling someone what to do and teaching them to figure out what to do. Del Negro is a teller, not a teacher— canishoopus (@canishoopus) May 29, 2014
When my dad started the job he has now, he quickly and frustratingly discovered his predecessor had not taught his staff how to do their jobs. She had only told them what to do. When she was no longer around to micromanage and give step-by-step instructions on even the most basic tasks, they were helpless. Dad had to start from the ground up.
That's worse that just having nothing. Now you have active liabilities, that cost your company money....or cost your team games. That's not even a square peg into a round hole. That's a square peg into something that has no holes at all. A square peg into a coffee table.
Del Negro's big, glaring, fundamental flaw is he does not lay a foundation for the future. Not for himself, not for anyone following in his footsteps, and this is why. He's a teller, not a teacher. His players don't learn how to play the game, they only learn how to follow instructions.
How many times does Pops instruct a player during a game? 5 possessions? 10? Out of 100? Some coaches micromanage the daylights out of their guys, calling a play every possession and instructing every guy every time they touch the ball. Pops sits with his arms crossed saying nothing for 46 minutes. The other 2 he spends yelling about mistakes. Because he doesn't need to tell his players what to do. They've learned how to do it on their own because Pops taught them how.
It's telling that teams get better after he leaves. It's telling that players don't speak up for him when his job is on the line. Paul practically shoved him out the door in LAC. He only resigned because the Clips got him Doc Rivers. That doesn't sound like a great track record with a great point guard to me.
If you're going to hire a coach to develop your roster...and apparently the reason Del Negro was interviewed was his 'track record' of developing point guards (Ricky Rubio angle)....then you should probably hire a coach who actually understands the intricacies and flow of the game and can teach that. Vinny Del Negro is not that guy.
Wolfson said VDN interviewed a week ago and that's all the further it's going. Pray to the flying noodle monster he's right.
This is also why I'd avoid Nate McMillan and Scott Skiles. Both are notorious micromanagers. McMillan lacks creativity (remember when iso-Roy was a thing?) Skiles burns his guys out like clockwork after 3 years. A coach who needs a supreme 1-on-1 guy is not the right coach for us, because we don't have any of those guys. Ditto for a coach who hangs his hat entirely on defense.
Stan Van Gundy has already accepted the head coaching position in Detroit, after they agreed to tack President onto the job description as well. Unfortunate, but I can't really blame the Wolves for that. Van Gundy seemed determined to have both positions under his thumb, and Flip wasn't going to fire himself to make that happen here. Nothing to say about Glen preferring the two jobs to be separate...which I actually strongly agree with him on. I don't think it will be long before Stan the Coach bullies Stan the Exec into doing something stupid. Especially with Otis Smith as the GM. There's a balancing act in front offices that exists for a reason. Trashing that usually gets you into Jimmy Dolan territory.
The assumption now, with Joerger off the table, is that former Wolf Sam Mitchell will be the hire. I...actually don't think so.
Everything I'm picking up indicated Sam is Glen's choice only. Saunders is lukewarm to the idea at best. And whatever his personal feelings, Taylor won't make a hire without Flip recommending him first (to my knowledge, Joerger is the only guy Flip's sent on to Glen so far)
Wolfson has touched on this on both his Twitter feed and his ESPN1500 reports, and based on what I know, I echo his sentiments: as it stands right now, I'd be surprised if the hire end up being Sam Mitchell.
That should make a lot of you happier, I imagine.
Tom Izzo, Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan are all but out. I'm guessing Flip will make his big pitch to Izzo anyway, since it sounds like he's put a lot into it already (and it wouldn't surprise me if he makes a pitch to Hoiberg as well) but all three college coaches have pretty much explicitly stated they're staying in the NCAA. And why not? Fred has his family and a big raise in Iowa. Izzo and Donovan are emperors in the college ranks.
The two guys who should be topping the list are George Karl and David Blatt. I would say, don't hold your breath on that.
Karl is a know quantity, of course, with a long and successful coaching career already to his name. From 92-98 he coached the Sonics, leading them to seven 50 win, playoff berth seasons, three division titles, and a Finals appearance in 1996 where they lost to the Bulls.
(What a powered roster though. Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Hersey Hawkins and Detlef Schrempf)
He then coached the Robinson/Allen/Cassell trio in Milwaukee, then the Melo era in Denver. Over the course of that career, he racked up all sorts of impressive records, including
Oh, and did I mention he's practically begging to coach this team? But I'd say that's pretty unlikely to happen. Flip seems to want a disciplinarian who will push the players, after Adelman got lacksidasical about it last year. Karl is infamous for being a coach who can hang with his minions. I also have a feeling Flip is worried that Karl will overrun his authority by force of personality. Not that they wouldn't get along....they're actually pretty close and have a lot of history...but Flip seems set on 'well, if I'm not going to be the coach, then the coach is ONLY going to be the coach. I do all the management."
By contrast, Blatt is an unknown to most people. But we Hoopusters aren't most people, are we?
Blatt is the coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), which he has turned into a surprising powerhouse in the Euroleague circuit. (He is American though....raised in Massachusetts)
As a coach, he is a 4x Israeli league champion and 5x. He has also coached his team to a championship in the Italian League, Adriatic League, and...just a few weeks ago...the entire Euroleague, after guiding Maccabi to victories over two overwhelming favorites in Real Madrid and CSKA.
Blatt will coach in the NBA someday, I guarantee that. He's on every team's radar in some way. He's drawn offers from the Nets and Celtics, and I'd bet he'll get one from the Lakers this year. But I highly doubt the Wolves will contact him. Recognition, wheelhouse, etc. Just not a Wolvesian thing to do. Which is a shame. As Harper said
If the Wolves are going to hire a "retread" then you go George Karl. If they want to cultivate a culture, you don’t go retread.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) May 29, 2014
Karl is by far the best, realistic 'retread' guy. Blatt is easily the best guy to start a unique culture. Neither appears to have any shot at being hired.
So where does that leave us, then?
It sounds like Lionel Hollins is still in the mix. Not a bad option, although I think the concern he won't know what to do with a roster of non-defenders is legitimate. He's interviewed once. I'm checking to see if it's going further than that.
Beyond him....who even knows?
The Wolves didn't seem to have much of a plan when all this started, and that doesn't seem to have changed with their first batch of names crossed off the list. Everything you've read so far is basically a litany of organizational dysfunction and outright rejection. Is there a plan at all?
Newton reiterated comments president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has made previously that the Wolves don't necessarily need to have a replacement hired by the draft.
"We're not rushed for time to select a coach, the process will take care of itself,'' Newton said, before smiling to deliver a quick jab. "I guarantee we will have one before the season starts next year.''
...ok then, Milt...
Granted, the Wolves are certainly more active than they let on. We didn't know Hollins, Mitchell or Del Negro interviewed until days...sometimes weeks...after the fact. And the local media swears there's dialogue happening with other guys who have yet to be named.
But well...it's Timberwolves. You guys get enough that bit from Eric and @raftsandmonkeys to know the score.
Now, if I had my say, I'd throw a couple more names out there:
Byron Scott: I've brought Scott up before, and it didn't go over well. But now we've been Del Negro'd so I feel justified in bringing him up again. If the angle is 'a guy who's worked with great point guards to develop Ricky Rubio', then yeah, why not the guy who's coached Kidd, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving? And unlike VDN, you can actually say Scott had a tangible influence on Paul and particularly Irving (which Mike Brown did his damnest to undo...) He's won Coach of the Year and coached the all star game twice while with two different teams (important because you have to have the best record in the conference by ASW) He had back-to-back Finals appearances coaching the Nets and well...a guy with that track record and a history of maximizing point guard play sounds pretty appealing to me.
Alvin Gentry: Another guy I think has the right temperment and track record to succeed here.
- He got All Star (and arguably still MVP) level play out of an aging Steve Nash. He knows how to handle point guards
- He inspires confidence and loyalty in his players...everyone from the most professional of pros (Nash, Grant Hill) to the most rebellious of rebels (Odom, Darius Miles)
- He's shown he can roll with the punches, turning the unlikely duo of Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse into a success, and then doing the same with Nash and Shaq