While we were all enjoying our Tuesday morning cup of coffee, Adrian Wojnarowski dropped some unexpected news onto our Twitter timelines.
ESPN Sources: New Minnesota president Gersson Rosas plans to interview candidates for franchise's coaching job, including Miami assistant Juwan Howard and Portland's David Vanterpool. Ryan Saunders remains a prominent candidate in process. Story: https://t.co/10o52U4RZl— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 14, 2019
What’s going on with this franchise? They’re actually running things competently? This is crazy!
In all seriousness, though, this is great news. Is it likely that Ryan Saunders ends up with the gig anyways? Probably. At least he has to go through the interview process now, which is all any of us were really asking for in the first place.
I’ve long been a skeptic of Mr. Suits, but to be completely fair to him, it is not easy to just take over a team in the middle of the season and change everything.
Enough about Saunders though, let’s assume Gersson Rosas and company are serious about these other candidates as potential options.
The more recognizable of the two names is Juwan Howard. A member of the Fab Five at Michigan before a long NBA playing career, Howard has had his name thrown around frequently this offseason for open head coaching gigs (Cleveland, Lakers), and for good reason. His resume is intriguing. As a former player, you assume he would be a good communicator in the locker room and would demand the respect of the team. Heck, the guy was an assistant coach on the Lebron James-led Miami Heat teams.
He’s now been on Erik Spoelstra’s staff in Miami for five seasons, and has primarily worked as a player development coach with their big men, as well as working as the teams defensive coordinator, per the Heat team website.
Aside from that, he has a bit of head coaching experience for the Heat summer league team (2016) as well as for Team Africa (2018) in the NBA Africa Games.
If nothing else, he’s an intriguing option.
The other candidate that Woj mentions in his story is Portland’s David Vanterpool. Like Howard, Vanterpool has been involved in a couple of coaching searches already this offseason (Cleveland, Phoenix).
Vanterpool had a brief (22 games) NBA stint with the Washington Wizards as a player before moving on to a more illustrious career in Europe. He finished his playing career with CSKA Moscow in 2007, and immediately joined the staff as an assistant coach. Here’s an interesting nugget about his time in Russia:
if my quick scanning of their wiki pages is right, Vanterpool would've coached *and played with* Shved in Moscow?— Punch-Drunk Wolves (@PDWolves) May 14, 2019
That seems like a major selling point.
Vanterpool stayed with CSKA Moscow until 2012 when he joined the Portland Trail Blazers staff. He has been in Portland ever since. He is largely credited as a talented defensive coach, and seems to be well liked by the players. If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from Dame and C.J.
With David Vanterpool running the defense, Trail Blazers finished seventh in defensive efficiency. At the 104:30 mark of this Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum interview, Vanterpool joined the dinner table to discuss his innovative coaching techniques. https://t.co/s23js3zbQz— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) April 28, 2018
So, while it may feel like this is all a bit of a formality before Suits gets the job, it’s encouraging that the Wolves are bringing in legitimate candidates for their head coaching vacancy. It’s encouraging that there is a real, competent process taking place to make these types of decisions. Ultimately, it’s encouraging that if/when Saunders does get the job, it won’t feel like it was just handed to him. He will have earned it.
UPDATE: Chris Finch, current Pelicans assistant who also worked for the Nuggets and more to the point with Rosas in Houston, including a stint as head coach of their D-League team, will also be a candidate.