Report: Timberwolves hire Thibodeau as coach, president


Report: Timberwolves hire Thibodeau as coach, president

MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Timberwolves have hired former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to be the team's new coach and president of basketball operations, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not officially announced the decision.

Thibodeau was the most coveted coach on the market, and he's bringing his unparalleled intensity and hard-driving approach to a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2004. He won nearly 65 percent of his games in five seasons with the Bulls, but was fired after last season amid speculation of a rift with general manager Gar Forman.

Landing such a big-name coach was a startling development for a Wolves franchise that has the longest-running playoff drought in the NBA and has routinely had to settle for second, third or fourth choices when jobs opened up. But team owner Glen Taylor, armed with one of the most promising young rosters in the league, turned 75 on Wednesday and doesn't want to wait around any longer for the team to become a winner.

San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden will accompany Thibodeau to Minnesota and serve as the Wolves' general manager and Thibodeau's right-hand man in the front office.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Thibodeau, who got his start in the NBA as an assistant for the expansion Timberwolves under Bill Musselman in 1989. He spent two years coaching the Timberwolves and often recalled those days fondly on return trips with the Bulls over the years.

The man they call Thibs is not the reflective kind. He's the ultimate grinder, a defensive mastermind that demands as much from his players as any coach in the league. He likely would have garnered interest from many of the teams looking for new coaches, including the Houston Rockets, but has decided to take over a team brimming with young talent.

He will replace Flip Saunders, who was both president and coach before his death just days before the season started. Sam Mitchell coached the season with an interim label and won 29 games, 13 more than they had the previous season.

The reasons for taking the job are more than just emotional for Thibodeau. Thanks in large part to the work of Saunders and GM Milt Newton, the Timberwolves boast one of the most promising young rosters in the league.

The foundation includes second-year forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 who won the Rookie of the Year award last season after being acquired from Cleveland in a trade for Kevin Love two summers ago. Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick last summer, is a shoo-in for this year's Rookie of the Year award and is considered by many in the league to be a top-20 player already.

The Wolves also have two-time slam dunk champion Zach LaVine, who emerged as a dynamic shooting guard capable of starting, veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, versatile big man Gorgui Dieng, scoring specialist Shabazz Muhammad and former Euroleague player of the year Nemanja Bjelica.

Add to that a shiny new practice facility that opened this season and renovations that are set to begin on the outdated Target Center this summer, and the Wolves job has suddenly and mind-blowingly become one of the most coveted in the league. Saunders died from complications of Hodgkin's lymphoma just days before the season started. Taylor elevated Mitchell to the head job and gave Newton final decision-making authority on the roster.

After a poor start to the season that included a stretch of 20 losses in 23 games, the Wolves started to show signs of progress in the second half.

Thibodeau was given both roles and will make the decision on whether to keep Newton in a supporting position.

Layden was the GM in New York when Thibodeau was an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy. Layden also served as GM in Utah during the Stockton-Malone days and will help the lifelong coach Thibodeau with the nuances and intricacies of the executive branch of the franchise.

Giving coaches final authority on the roster has become a bit of a trend in the NBA in recent seasons. Saunders had it and Stan Van Gundy demanded it from the Pistons in order to make the move from Florida to the Midwest. The Los Angeles Clippers gave Doc Rivers dual roles, as did the Atlanta Hawks with Mike Budenholzer after GM Danny Ferry was fired.


Thunder not taking shorthanded Celtics for granted

Thunder not taking shorthanded Celtics for granted

Oklahoma City All-Star Paul George knows the Boston Celtics team he and his Thunder teammates will face tomorrow night, won’t be at full strength.

But he’s wise enough to know if you focus too much on an opponent’s key losses to their roster, that same team can potentially hand you a loss which is the last thing the Thunder need right now in what’s shaping up to be a tightly contested Western Conference playoff race.

MORE - I.T. isn't ruling out return to C's

Currently fourth in the standings, only four games separate teams No. 3-8. Only Houston (56-14) and Golden State (53-17) have secured a postseason berth. 

Which means the Celtics won’t catch Oklahoma City sleeping on them heading into tomorrow night’s game. 

“We are going to address it the same way regardless of who's in there,” George said. “We got to pick these games up. We lost the game on our floor earlier this season.”

But that was early in the season when the Thunder were still trying to figure out how its newly formed core of Russell Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony, could mesh.

Oklahoma City has gotten stronger as the season progressed, and are one of the hottest teams around with six straight wins, the most recent being a 132-125 victory at Eastern Conference-leading Toronto. 

Meanwhile, Boston (47-23) has lost its last two games and three of four so from a momentum standpoint, the Thunder have every reason to feel as though they’ll emerge victorious tomorrow night. 

And they also have added motivation from their Nov. 3 matchup with the Celtics in Oklahoma City that ended with a 101-94 win for Boston. 

Westbrook had 19 points and 11 assists in that game but shot 7-for-20 from the field. Carmelo Anthony had 14 points but did so on a woeful 3-for-17 shooting. And then there was George’s 25 points on 9-for-20 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. 

“We have to show who we are,” George said.

Who they are, is a team that’s fighting for home court in at least the first round of the playoffs where they are currently fourth in the West. 

And their success in the last six games has been fueled by strong play at both ends of the floor. 


In that stretch, Oklahoma City is averaging 116.2 points which ranks second in the NBA during that span. Defensively, they are allowing 104.5 points which is the 10th-fewest allowed in the last six games.

“Just making the right plays, offensively and defensively” is how Westbrook described the team’s recent run of success. 

And the Thunder have every intention of keeping it going against a beat-up Celtics squad that they know they can’t take lightly. 

“Again, we are playing really well,” George said. “A step back if we lose no matter who's in or who's out would hurt us.”


Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue.