Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer
PREVIOUSLY ON: The Coachelor
With the recent retirement of Rick Adelman, the NBA has chosen me, the Minnesota Timberwolves, to be the first first-ever Coachelor. 10 potential coaches were delivered via limo to battle for my affections and a chance to coach the team, but Mark Jackson bowed out immediately upon stepping into the snowy conditions – like a bitch. With eight roses to give to the nine coaches remaining, it was Lindsey Hunter who would walk away without a rose or a chance at being part of the Wolves organization. There are now eight coaches left, and the pressure is on to cut the field down further as only six coaches will receive a rose.
I was pretty excited to get into the next round of the competition once things got going. I wasn’t fully onboard with the idea at first, but this could really be a beneficial experience. It was interesting to see what coaches the NBA corralled for The Coachelor, as I didn’t think a few of them would actually be interested in the job. There were others that weren’t included that I thought might have been good fits for the team or had even expressed interest in coaching. Stan Van Gundy was one of these names I thought could be good for the team.
SVG coached his team to the playoffs all seven full seasons he spent coaching the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic combined. The only time he didn’t make the playoffs was when he resigned as coach of the Heat after only 21 games into the 2005-’06 season. However, SVG expressed that he wasn’t interested in becoming a part of the Wolves after I threw his name out there a few weeks ago as someone I was interested in. I was initially concerned this was because he didn’t want to coach in a place like Minnesota after coaching in Orlando and Miami for so many years, but Detroit’s recent hiring of SVG makes me think otherwise. It will be interesting to see what improvements are made by the Pistons next year and if he can keep his playoff streak alive.
Steve Kerr wasn’t a name that had ever been in the same sentence as “Minnesota Timberwolves”, but his signing with the Golden State Warriors both interests me and scares me as to what the cost of signing a new coach might cost me. I mean, do I have to shell out $25 million over the next five years for a coach with zero experience? Nonetheless, these recent deals are getting me excited for my own potential signing. I’ve also become inspired by the Minnesota Wild’s recent playoff efforts as well. Seeing people rally around the team, even those who hadn’t watched a single regular season game of hockey like myself, was pretty awesome. It’s not that I don’t like hockey, it’s just that, well…Wolves and ice don’t always get along. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the Wild’s first playoff series win in 11 years; the ending of a long drought.
I have a couple of droughts I would like to end myself, and hopefully one of the eight coaches remaining will be up to the challenge.
ROUND DEUX – A FIGHT!
The second round provided myself and the coaches an opportunity to get a little more one-on-one time. I had some questions I just had to ask so I could gauge how serious some of the contestants were. Rumors have been flying around that Fred Hoiberg, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan all will likely stay with their respective colleges. They’re all appealing options, though. I also had some questions for the guys with less experience and those who haven’t been coaching for a while. It was time for the gloves to come off and see who could deliver their best hadouken (translation: surge fist)!
I first met with the current collegiate coaches. I couldn’t help but confront them about things I’ve heard regarding where they’re currently at and where they see themselves in the next few years. Donovan, well…I’ll get to Donovan later. Hoiberg almost seemed like he was distracted when we were talking. It was like he wasn’t all there. I got him to snap out of it eventually when I spoke of his days playing for the Wolves and how Flip Saunders views him in such a positive light, but he didn’t seem very interested in talking about work. Izzo also seemed like he had something on his mind when I asked him about his current status with Michigan State. Were they really here because they were interested in the job or was this just an opportunity for them to be in the spotlight and perhaps put some pressure on their current employers to keep them there? Hell, Iowa State just gave Hoiberg a raise after this season when his name had started to be thrown around for potential NBA gigs…
The next group of coaches I met with were the ones that are coming off of a layoff from coaching, no matter how long or short. What new tactics can these coaches provide for the ever-evolving game of basketball? What trends have they noticed changing while they’ve been away from the sidelines? Sam Mitchell was fired by the Toronto Raptors 17 games into the season back in 2008 and hasn’t had an opportunity to lead a team since. Mitchell was quick to bring up the fact that he’s been scouting for the Brooklyn Nets for the last couple of years or so now and believes he has an edge over the others in that regard. George Karl has only been “out the game” for a year now and led the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs all ten seasons he coached them. Experience is not the issue with Karl, though, it’s the troubling fact that the Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round nine times out of those 10 seasons. Nine. I recall Karl saying: “Hey, you wanna make the playoffs? I can get you there.” Making the playoffs is a start, but it’s not enough.
Lionel Hollins is another guy that’s only been sitting out for a year. His last season coaching Memphis was especially impressive, as the Grizzlies went 56-26 and reached the conference finals. His conflicts with management are troubling, especially after such a successful season. Sounds a lot like what happened recently with the Warriors and Mark Jackson. Hollins was quick to shake that off, however, stating that he learned from the experience and was confident he could help the Wolves achieve more success than they have in the last 10 years. Flip Saunders has had a couple of seasons off from coaching, but has still remained heavily involved in all things basketball. I did my best to keep things professional with Saunders, but I was all sortsa flustered. Ultimately, deciding to keep him around or cut him is going to be the hardest every time.
I saved Sam Cassell and Donovan for last because they got into a bit of a scuffle earlier in the day. I thought it was kind of odd that any of these guys would get into an altercation, let alone these two. I wasn’t present for it, but I was told it had something to do with Cassell telling Donovan to go back to Florida, because that’s what he was going to do anyway. Donovan, as expected, didn’t take too kindly to this and told Cassell he was out of his league with the rest of these coaches and didn’t have enough experience to even be here. While I don’t want to see them literally hadoukening each other, I think Donovan brings up a good point and it was something I asked both he and Cassell about. What I like about Cassell is his enthusiasm. He admitted that he may not have had an opportunity to be a head coach yet, but also stated that you have to start somewhere. Donovan, on the other hand, rattled off reason after reason why prior success as a head coach was exactly what the Wolves need in their next leader.
It was that time of night once again. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing but the ritual must be done. The remaining eight coaches lined up in front of me once again. Although, for some reason, this decision seemed a little bit easier to make than the first time. After all, I had gotten to know these coaches a lot better than I did in that one night, and I’ve also started to learn more about myself and my needs in a coach moving forward.
I grabbed the first rose and began handing them out one by one.
“Sam Mitchell. . .”
“. . . Flip Saunders…”
It came down to my final rose and I had two of the best collegiate coaches standing in front of me. There was just one problem; neither of them were even looking in my direction. In fact, through the entire Rose Ceremony, they were staring straight into their iPhones without once looking up to catch my attention. Before I made a final decision, I had to get down to the bottom of this.
“Tom and Fred, I noticed both of you more engaged with your phones tonight than me. So I have to know: Are either of you here for the right reasons? Do you even want to be my next head coach?”
The two glanced at each other, then at me, then at their phones one last time.
“We don’t,” they said in unison.
And with that, both Fred and Tom left the set, leaving me in tears. It was a hard decision to choose between one of them to stay, considering both were atop my wish list. But the fact is Tom has dodged being courted by an NBA teams for years and Fred is called “The Mayor” at his hometown university. Neither of them have the desire to leave their respective comfort zones. Maybe we’ll never see either of them in the NBA but I damn sure know that the league would be better off with one of them running an NBA sideline. So hopefully it’ll happen one day. But the situation in Minnesota just isn’t right for either of them.
Next Week on The Coachelor: With the two college coaches gone, the remaining five contestants begin to relax. Everyone but Donovan have NBA experience, and it’s starting to come out in their personalities. Can Donovan hang with the remaining big-wigs? Will his inexperience be his downfall? Or will it catch the Timberwolves’ eye to snag a wildly successful college coach with a knack for developing players? Stay tuned!