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Should the Timberwolves Worry About (Possibly) Losing David Vanterpool?

Once again, the Timberwolves assistant is considered for open head coaching positions. Should fans be concerned?

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We have seen an incredible amount of coaching turnover since the cessation of the regular season. The reality is that if teams like Houston, Los Angeles (C), and Philadelphia were still playing, they wouldn’t have job openings. With the Knicks and Pacers mixed in, it feels like one of the more tumultuous years for coaches in recent memory.

Some of the hires have been big names. Tom Thibodeau takes a third crack as a head coach in New York while Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving the Nets gave Steve Nash their lead job. Doc Rivers is now in Philadelphia and Ty Lue is interviewing everywhere. Following the coaching circuit this fall feels a lot like Charlie Kelly in the Pepe Silvia episode of It’s Always Sunny.

Among the names floated is Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach David Vanterpool. Vanterpool has developed a good reputation in his seven years as a defensive specialist. When he was with Portland, he got the Blazers to play (good enough) defense to vault them into the postseason every year in spite of the personnel. According to ESPN, Vanterpool is now a contender for the Houston Rockets job:

Time to Panic?

The difficult part of evaluating coaches, especially assistants, is knowing exactly what they do and how much influence they have. We think Vanterpool is a defensive coordinator but that may be one part of his duties or a shared responsibility among the staff.

You look at the results on the defensive end this season and the results aren’t encouraging: 28th in points allowed per game and 21st in defensive rating. The Timberwolves allowed the fifth-highest opponent field goal percentage and the tenth-highest opponent 3-point percentage. Statistically, they were the worst defensive rebounding team in the league.

Now, there’s a lot of context missing here.

Most notably may be the fact the team realized they had an ill-fitting roster and turned over almost all of it at midseason. Key rotation players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Jake Layman missed significant time with injury. Aside from needing the right pieces, you need stability, consistency, and patience for implementing new schemes. The Wolves had none of the above.

There are many reasons to like Vanterpool, but if you weren’t sold on him as defensive coordinator after this season, I wouldn’t necessarily blame you either. This team was quite bad on that end of the floor.

What Are We Doing Here?

Hiring Vanterpool as Ryan Saunders’ assistant was always extremely weird. The Timberwolves are going to continue to endure these rumors every offseason until Vanterpool is eventually poached from another team or promoted within his current one. A reputable and experienced, first-time head coaching candidate is always going to intrigue teams, especially ones looking for a fresh start from an old regime. By simply making Vanterpool an assistant again, it feels like the Timberwolves are positioning themselves to inevitably lose him after a season or two.

In the end, it does feel like the most likely scenario is Vanterpool leaving to become a head coach elsewhere. Ryan Saunders seems like the head coach as long as Glen Taylor owns the team (which could be just another couple of months, or another couple of years — who really knows at this point). Gersson Rosas has always publicly had Saunders’ back, but would he hesitate to make a change if the team gets off to a slow start next season? It’s possible, but this still feels like a long shot considering how many jobs are still open.

So for now, the Wolves will continue down this weird path where they have one of the best head coaching candidates in the league, but one that will (more than likely) never fulfill his true career goals with his current employer.