During their existence, the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t had much luck finding a good head coach. From Bill Musselman to Kurt Rambis, the front office has had their share of failures in finding anybody that can lead the obscure franchise to a consistent level of success. According to a report by ESPN’s Marc Stein, that revolving door could begin swinging again as early as next month when Rick Adelman has the option of voiding the final year of his contract.
The 67-year-old coach hasn’t seen the level of success that some expected when he was hired to replace Rambis in 2011 and his wife’s health has been a wild card over the past two years. By leaving the Timberwolves, he can be with his ailing wife and be at peace with one of the most successful coaching careers in NBA history with 1,038 victories in 23 seasons.
Of course, that leaves the Timberwolves with big shoes to fill. Minnesota has become the equivalent of basketball hell with their star player looking for the next flight to Los Angeles and no pull (or salary cap room) to land a star free agent to get the team over the hump. They might not even have draft picks to use in this June’s draft if they finish with the 14th overall pick this season, so finding someone could be a tall task.
Fortunately, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has a convenient name in his contact list.
Fred Hoiberg has successfully turned Iowa State from Big 12 doormat to a nationally respected program in just four seasons on the job. As a cult hero in Ames, it’s highly unlikely that he would want to test the waters of the NBA, but Brad Stevens taught everyone last year that the next level is always a possibility for a successful collegiate coach.
For the Timberwolves, there couldn’t be a better hire. Hoiberg is a rising star that was a fan favorite during his two seasons in Minnesota (2003-05) and could be a great public relations move for a team that needs it. That might be enough appeal to convince Kevin Love to stay in the Twin Cities, but there’s also a lot working against this move.
There’s the issue of Hoiberg’s health. A heart condition cut his career short prior to the 2005-06 campaign and led him down the road back to Ames. This doesn’t seem to be an issue at the collegiate level where travel is limited and the game schedule is condensed, but what happens during the 82-game grind of the NBA?
Such a scenario might not mean long-term success for Hoiberg (or any coach) in Minnesota and would likely sway him to remain in a city that refers to him as “The Mayor.” It doesn’t mean the Timberwolves won’t try if Adelman indeed opts out of his contract, but it just shows that even the best candidates will be a tough sell.