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Timberwolves Ready To Embrace More Modern Approach After Tom Thibodeau’s Departure

   Timberwolves Ready To Embrace More Modern Approach After Tom Thibodeau’s Departure

January 14, 2019

The timing might have been strange but the decision to fire Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau is unsurprising. Given the fact the Wolves had just triumphed over rivals Los Angeles Lakers by a 22-point margin, you’d think most head coaches would be able to enjoy the post-game press conference and look forward to the next game. Not so Thibodeau, who was stripped of his position, joining Fred Hoiberg and Tyronn Lue as the NBA’s trio of sacked head coaches in 2018-2019.
tom thibodeau"Tom Thibodeau" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison
At the end of last season, the Timberwolves were in high spirits having traded for Jimmy Butler. But the team’s new star grew tired of the direction the franchise was going under Thibodeau, aiming criticism at the team’s younger players and questioning their will to win. Forcing through a trade to the 76ers in exchange for Dario Saric and Robert Covington was a sign of discontent and further acknowledgment that not all was well under their former head coach. For many – including Reid Forgrave at Cbssports.com – the team was heading in the wrong direction, a fact highlighted by Butler’s short-lived stint in Minnesota.
Some felt Thibodeau’s time at the franchise might come to an end in 2019 if the Timberwolves failed to make the playoffs but the deterioration of his relationship with Butler has accelerated his demise.
And as Forgrave says, the writing was on the wall for this “old-school coach in a new-school NBA”. Indeed, the CBS Sports correspondent isn’t the only commentator or fan to think Thibodeau was overworking his staff. Of those NBA stars with most minutes played last season, three of the top 14 players were Timberwolves (Butler, Towns and Wiggins).
Thibodeau is well-respected. After all, he oversaw a 13-year playoff drought end by posting a 47-35 record in 2018, with Butler starring alongside fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. But he was seemingly ignorant of the benefit of in-season rest leaving the Timberwolves short of energy in the postseason.
Even in regards to three-pointers, the head coach seemed stuck in the past, handcuffing his team to short-range points leaving the Wolves in last position for attempted shots from distance in the whole of the NBA in 2017-2018.

timberwolves military appreciation game

"Timberwolves Military Appreciation Game" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Minnesota National Guard
For now, Ryan Saunders is in charge as interim coach with the team just below .500 and chasing the eighth-place Lakers in the Western Conference for a postseason berth. It remains to be seen how having the son of former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders in charge will affect the team’s style, approach or tactics.
Their slim chance of winning the division – at 67.00 on MoPlay.co.uk – does still put the Timberwolves as sixth favorites, suggesting the betting markets expect Saunders to deliver a playoff berth. However, the next few games will give a better indication of where this team is post-Thibodeau.
The surprising factor isn’t that Thibodeau lost his position as head coach, rather the timing of the dismissal. Notes sbnation.com, due to owner Glen Taylor’s relationship with Fred Hoiberg, who is available after being dismissed by the Chicago Bulls in December, the Timberwolves may already have an eye on their replacement. Speed is of the essence though, as Hoiberg has been linked with the currently available UCLA job. The ball is in Taylor’s court. But that is exactly what he wanted.

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