Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor took little time in finding the team’s next head coach and general manager. On Wednesday, the T-Wolves announced the hiring of former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach and president of basketball operations. The team also announced the hiring of former San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager Scott Layden as the new general manager.
Landing the Minnesota coaching gig brings Thibodeau full circle in his coaching career. In 1989, Thibodeau was an assistant on the expansion Minnesota team. He would serve as an assistant from 1989 to 2010 for the T-Wolves, Spurs, 76ers, Knicks, Rockets and Celtics. Speaking of that Celtics team he was the assistant head coach for, they happened to win the NBA championship in the 2007-08 season. Thibodeau’s defensive mindset helped the Celtics that season rank in the top-five in a multitude of different defensive categories.
He finally got a head coaching gig in 2010 when he was hired by the Bulls. In his first season at the helm, he led the Bulls to a 62-win season, tying the most wins for a rookie head coach. In that same year, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year, leading the team to the Eastern Conference finals, where they would eventually lose to the Miami Heat. In his five seasons with Chicago, the team never finished with less than 45 wins, including three 50-win seasons and they made the playoffs every year. He was even able to lead the Bulls to the playoffs despite being riddled with injuries, mainly to franchise point guard Derrick Rose, who missed nearly two seasons with injuries.
Thibodeau’s defensive mantra will serve the T-Wolves good. In his time with Chicago, the Bulls were in the top-five in points per 100 possessions in four of the five seasons. This is where Minnesota will benefit greatly from hiring Thibodeau. This season, the T-Wolves struggled defensively, finishing 27th out of 30 in defensive efficiency, compared to ranking 11th in offensive efficiency.
Minnesota’s young roster is something many potential head coaching candidates had their eyes on, Thibodeau included, who called the young roster the “best young roster in the NBA.” The team is led by Karl-Anthony Towns, who could very well win the Rookie of the Year award this year, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, not to mention the likes of Gorgul Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. In addition to the current roster, Minnesota will have a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft, which could even be a top-five pick, depending on how the ping pong balls fall that is.
Thibodeau will show this team discipline and how to lock in defensively, something that will surely ascend them up the standings. One big question in regards to how Thibodeau coaches this team is how much he will play them He was often criticized during his tenure in Chicago for playing his star players for too long in meaningless regular season games. The good thing with this roster is that most of it is compiled by guys who are 27-years old or less, so they have plenty of gas in the proverbial tank. Young, hungry talent mixed with a veteran head coach who has proven he can win in this league equals potential great success.
There is no doubt Minnesota went out and got the guy they, and many other teams around the NBA looking for a head coach, had their sights on. They won’t win the NBA championship next season, but they will make great strides and move closer to contention than they previously have been accustomed to. Thibodeau will make sure this team isn’t an afterthought for the foreseeable future.