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.


Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from Celtics-Trail Blazers

“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”


Marcus Morris and the shorthanded Celtics continue to make magic happen

Marcus Morris and the shorthanded Celtics continue to make magic happen

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. 

WATCH - Morris drills clutch 3-pointer vs Blazers


Marcus Morris: He continues to fill the void that exists with Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) not returning to the lineup anytime soon. For the second straight game, Morris wound up with the game-winning shot. Morris led all scorers with 30 points, one shy of tying his season high.

C.J. McCollum: Team scoring honors were shared between McCollum and Damian Lillard, but it was McCollum’s baskets in the closing minutes that positioned the Blazers with a shot at winning. For the game, he had 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists.

Damian Lillard: Not quite as efficient as McCollum, but Lillard was very much a load for the Celtics all game. He had 26 points on 9-for-22 shooting from the field and eight assists.



Shane Larkin: There were others with better numbers, but few had as big an impact on the game as Shane Larkin. He did a great job all game of running the team, as well as scoring nine points to go with seven assists and four rebounds. But it was his defense on Damian Lillard that was absolutely huge for the Celtics getting the win.

Greg Monroe: Boston’s second unit was a key factor tonight with Greg Monroe being among those leading the second unit charge, finishing with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. 

Al-Farouq Aminu: He wasn’t much of a factor down the stretch, but Aminu had another solid stat line for the Blazers, finishing with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds along with five steals.



Blazers bench: Portland’s second unit was dreadful, shooting a combined 4-for-19 from the field while totaling just 13 points with each of the four players off the bench finishing with a plus/minus of no better than -9.