Coachelor

The Coachelor – Episode 2

Coachelor

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.

OPENING THOUGHTS

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.

ROSE CEREMONY

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 Cassell…”

“George Karl…”

“Billy Donovan…”

“Sam Mitchell. . .”

“Lionel Hollins…”

“. . . 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!

Coachelor

The Coachelor

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

Relationships aren’t easy.

Not just finding the right one, but maintaining them can be just as difficult. That’s been my problem lately. Well, I suppose I should introduce myself before going on much further. Some of you may know me as the Minnesota Timberwolves; others simply refer to me as the Wolves or Pups. It’s all the same to me. As you may have heard, I find myself in the same position I was in three years ago: without a coach.

It’s kind of exciting to be back on the open market, to be honest. My three seasons with Rick Adelman represented the second-longest tenure any coach has had with me before. Is it sad to see him go? A little. His 42.2% winning percentage is the third-best of the 10 coaches I’ve had since my formation in 1989, behind Flip Saunders (55.8%) and Dwane Casey (43.4%). Adelman helped me finish third in the division for the first time since the 2004-’05 season and finished just three wins shy of becoming the second coach to win 100 games with the team. However, he ultimately wasn’t able to snap the embarrassing streak of what is now nine straight losing seasons and ten seasons without making the playoffs. I think the timing was right for both of us to move on.

Of the 25 NBA teams that currently have a head coach, their “relationships” have lasted an average of about 2.8 seasons, or roughly 230 games so far. Gregg Popovich’s 1,410 regular season games coaching the Spurs kind of skews that number, though. Without Pop, that number drops to about 2.2 seasons, or around 180 games. The average length of my past relationships has been about 2.44 seasons, or about 200 games. It’s normal to keep track of these things, right? Either way, at least I’m not the Pistons, who have serious commitment issues, getting rid of two coaches in a in just 10 months from February!

I’m one of five teams that will already be hooking up with a new coach for next season, but the NBA chose to come to me with this unique opportunity. I wanted no part of it at first, but decided to give it a little thought. After weighing my options for several moons, I ultimately decided to take the NBA up on their offer; an offer that could potentially find me a new coach for the long-term, which is what I want right now. I couldn’t let it slip through my paws. I thought I’d be embarrassed to say it at first, but if it puts me in a better position to find a coach that will bring me back to the playoffs, then I must be prepared to admit that I am . . .

The Coachelor.

OPENING NIGHT

I was pretty anxious heading into the first night. Crunch offered to be there for support in making such a difficult decision, but I told him it’d be better for me to do this on my own. As expected, the NBA withheld the identities of the 10 coaches that would be arriving to the mansion. I was a little disappointed that I would have to cut the number of people from 10 to 8 by the end of the first night. The first cut would basically be all about the eye test. Who could pass it?

I was at least able to convince the NBA to do one thing, however. I figured one would need to be able to deal with the weather conditions if they’re going to coach the Timberwolves, so the NBA pulled a few strings with some people I don’t think I want to know. Several inches of snow were dropped throughout the state as temperatures plummeted and the arrival of spring prolonged. Sorry, Minnesota.

10 coaches to arrive and only eight roses to hand out. Let’s do it!

I put my cleanest jersey on and went to the front of the mansion to greet the group of potential coaches. A giant fountain stood in the center of the driveway, sprouting water high into the air as green and blue lights made the water glow in the night sky. That water must’ve been freezing. The first limo approached, passing by giant torches surrounding the fountain. I truly felt butterflies for the first time. Who would be the first to arrive?

The limo slowed to a halt, its tires crunching over the snow as the driver got out to open the door…

THE CONTESTANTS

George Karl: Rumors have been swirling around as to whether or not Karl is interested or if I’m even interested in Karl as a potential coach. The fact of the matter is, you never know how things will go down in the off-season and Karl’s presence on this list of candidates is to be expected at the very least. Five NBA teams have called on him before to lead their players and he brings 25 years of coaching experience to the table. Karl’s teams have only missed the playoffs three of those 25 seasons. However, he has never been able to win a championship. A lot to consider.

Sam Cassell: Here’s a familiar face! As many remember, Cassell played point guard with the team for a couple of seasons from 2003-’05. Cassell was made an assistant coach under Flip Saunders with the Washington Wizards back in 2009 and one can only imagine how useful his experience and knowledge has been for guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. How could he help Ricky Rubio?

Tom Izzo: Will he stay or will he go? I have a feeling there will be a couple of other people that show up on here in similar situations as Izzo. Reports in March suggested that Izzo wouldn’t be interested in leaving his coaching gig at Michigan State for a crack at the NBA, but it hasn’t been ruled out. His presence here confirms it. So there. How can Izzo translate his collegiate coaching success into the NBA, if he so chooses to go down that path? Izzo seems to be able to rally his team as well as anyone by the end of the season, making the Spartans dangerous every March. Can he make the Wolves dangerous in April, May and June?

Fred Hoiberg: Ah, another former player of the team steps out of the limo. Hoiberg played on the team for the same stretch as Cassell, retiring after the 2004-’05 season. Hoiberg took a front office job with the Wolves and eventually became the head coach of his alma mater, Iowa State. The Cyclones have shown improvements after each season under Hoiberg, reaching the Sweet Sixteen in this year’s tournament. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him at Iowa State, but it may be tough to pull him away.

Lionel Hollins: After bringing the Grizzlies to the playoffs three straight seasons, losing in the conference finals in the final season of those three, it was a surprise to some to see Memphis cut Hollins loose. After having taken this season off from coaching, Hollins’ name has been floating around for a coaching job next season. While Hollins’ separation with the Grizzlies may have been largely due to conflicts with management, he’s still an interesting candidate for the job with proven success in his coaching career.

Sam Mitchell: Man, another one? I’m not complaining by any means, it’s great to see old players showing up for a chance to coach the team. Some may not know that Mitchell has head coaching experience. After spending most of his playing career in Minnesota, Mitchell spent a couple of years as an assistant nearby in Milwaukee. Mitchell was given a chance to coach the Toronto Raptors where he failed to make the playoffs for the first two seasons, but improved the team by 20 wins from the 2005-’06 to ‘06-’07 seasons, winning the NBA Coach of the Year in the process. He was never able to help the Raptors get past the first round, but he did show he can help a team improve.

Mark Jackson: I was kind of surprised to see Jackson step out of the limo, but interested in the prospect of him becoming coach nonetheless. Unfortunately, I recall things happening almost exactly like this… Jackson gets out of the limo, looks at the snowy ground and says: “Aw, hell no, take me back to the other side of the fountain. I’m out!”

And just like that, I only had to get rid of one person.

Lindsey Hunter: This is an interesting one. Hunter served as the interim head coach for the Phoenix Suns in 2013, going 12-29 in 41 games as the coach. The Suns ultimately went with Jeff Hornacek to take over for the ‘13-’14 season, leading Hunter to go to Golden State as an assistant coach. While the Warriors’ regime under Jackson was rocky, to say the least, Hunter could still be an option for the head coaching position. If not with Golden State, then maybe somewhere else.

Billy Donovan: I’m kind of surprised by Donovan’s presence. I didn’t really expect him to be here, considering his relationship with the Florida Gators. I don’t know how interested he truly is in a chance at coaching in the NBA. He agreed to coach the Orlando Magic back in 2007, but changed his mind less than a week later and ended up staying with the Gators. While his back-to-back championships several years ago and four-straight Elite Eight appearances are impressive, how interested would he be in moving from Florida to Minnesota? And would he actually commit to the deal if we got to that point?

Time for the last person.

The limo pulls up and the door is opened. My heart stops. I wasn’t expecting to see an ex- here tonight . . .

Flip Saunders: Although my owner, Glen Taylor, has stated he would prefer Saunders to stay in a front office role within the organization, I figure there must be a reason why Saunders is here with the others. Just to stir things up? To cause drama? I mean, he is the only coach to lead the team to the playoffs and have a +.500 coaching record over 10 seasons. And I know he won’t turn away because of the snow.

THE FIRST IMPRESSIONS

There are so many great choices, and thanks to Jackson’s early self-entitled departure, I only had to eliminate one more coach this very night. They all have so many great qualities, so I spent time getting to know them from the beginning. There was a lot of surface talk, chit-chat. I wasn’t all that interested but kept telling myself that this is a long, grueling process and I needed to be thorough. I couldn’t just get to know these coaches on that deep, intellectual level right away. Some seemed distant, like Izzo and Hoiberg. I tried to get them to open up but they seemed preoccupied, like their hearts weren’t really into the idea of the job because they had something else pretty great back home already. And then some were very forward in getting to know me more. I liked that but Hunter, more specifically, continually pushed himself into my conversations and really only kept talking about himself, like it was his way or the highway.

THE ROSE CEREMONY

The end of the night was near, and I had to step away to make my decision on who was going home tonight. I sat and looked over their resumes and thought more and more about what kind of interaction I had with each of them through the night. Oh, this is just so hard. It made me question why I said yes to this whole ordeal in the first place. But then I thought of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the Wolves’ restless fanbase, who just want to simply make the playoffs. This is bigger than just me.

I called the coaches in for the first Roses Ceremony. My hands were trembling as these prestigious basketball minds lined up in front of me. I picked up the first rose, and my words just stumbled out, “These roses belong to the coaches who truly believe that they can help the Wolves make — and advance — through the playoffs.” In no particular order, I started calling out their names to come take a rose.

“George Karl … Sam Mitchell … Sam Cassell … Billy Donovan … Lionel Hollins … Fred Hoiberg … Tom Izzo … and (gulp) Flip Saunders.

“I’m sorry, Lindsey, but you, just like your dear friend Mark Jackson, seem too bullheaded and selfish to be my next head coach. Things in Golden State ended pretty rotten, and although you did some terrific work while there, the baggage was just too much for me to take on at this point.”

With Hunter and Jackson officially gone, the remaining coaches gathered for a toast and I assured them all that I will do my absolute best to get to know them in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a long road in finding my new head coach but I’m embracing the challenge head on, knowing that my fans and players will have my back.

Next week on The Coachelor: The coaches continue to push for my attention and I’m kind of enjoying it. Not many before this point have vied for the job this hard, so it’s something new and exhilarating. But just as everything seems to be going just fine, one of our contestants tells me he’s just not ready to be with me on this level quite yet — or maybe even ever. Stay tuned!

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Who Coaches the Timberwolves Next Season?

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It’s not uncommon in sports to have the coach become the scapegoat for a disappointing season. The Timberwolves’ Rick Adelman has been no exception with fans. Some have been frustrated by his rotations and questioning his in-game adjustments. There has been speculation that Adelman may walk away from the job after this season after his wife struggled with health issues last season. Consequently, this has led to even more speculation about who would replace him as coach in such an instance.

The first name that many fans have been drawn to is Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg has strong ties to the Timberwolves organization as both a player and management. Given the team’s history for bringing in former associate’s, this makes sense. My only question is would the grass be greener for Fred in the NBA? I’m not so sure. He has built a successful program in Ames, Iowa and was handsomely rewarded by signing an extension worth 10 years, $20 million. On top of that, college coaches have an iffy track record in transitioning in the NBA. It’s really an entirely different animal, but Hoiberg may still be able to reach professional players considering he was one not too long ago.

Secondly, there’s Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. This is one that I personally doubt would happen. I mean, Tom Izzo is the face of the Spartans’ program with a great reputation and financial situation. Unless he’s yearning for the challenge to prove to him that he could be a successful coach at both levels, it’s hard to see.

Then there has been Jeff Van Gundy, who probably hasn’t coached since I was in elementary school. Van Gundy is apparently close with Flip Saunders, so there’s that, but Van Gundy has had a steady, less-stressful gig as a broadcaster, which no former player or coach would gladly choose to give up. After years of being off the court would he want to jump back in now? Is this the right situation for him to return? None of these questions I really have the answer to, but Stan Van Gundy, his brother, would be the more likely replacement than Jeff. Though SVG would require more shooters as he had in Orlando, but may do wonders for this defense. SVG is still a good coach who would probably be coaching had he not been fired by Dwight Howard. I mean, the Magic.

Finally, there’s Saunders himself who is the likeliest candidate at this point. Saunders has had the itch ever since he left Washington and was rumored for the Gophers coaching job before Richard Pitino was hired on. Additionally, he is close to Taylor and this way they wouldn’t have to pay someone else to do it.

Of course some of this will likely come down to Kevin Love. Love’s opinion likely matters and that’s one of the reasons besides being a good coach the team won’t push Adelman out the door. We don’t even know for sure if Adelman is leaving as nothing has been voiced publicly by any party involved. This conversation may very well wind up being for nothing, but this is kinda where we’re at now.