MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One meeting down, one to go for Memphis coach Dave Joerger and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Joerger met with Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders about Minnesota’s coaching vacancy on Thursday and is scheduled to meet with owner Glen Taylor at some point this weekend, a person with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press.
If Joerger makes a good impression with Taylor and the Timberwolves and Grizzlies can come to some sort of agreement on compensation for to get him out of his contract, all signs point to Joerger replacing the retired Rick Adelman back in his home state. The 40-year-old Joerger grew up in Staples, about 150 miles northeast of Minneapolis, and played collegiately at Division-II Minnesota State, Moorhead.
Joerger went 50-32 in his first season as an NBA head coach with the Grizzlies, leading an injury-plagued team back from a 10-15 start to the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff field.
After the Grizzlies lost to Oklahoma City in seven games in the first round, owner Robert Pera made the surprising decision to fire two of his top executives, including the one most responsible for elevating Joerger from assistant to replace Lionel Hollins.
The disarray has led Joerger to look elsewhere, and the prospects of returning home to coach in front of family and friends, and work for a team president that he has known for two decades, has him ready to make the move. When Joerger was just starting to break into the coaching ranks, he attended Timberwolves practices run by Saunders, who coached the team from 1995-2005.
Joerger and Saunders hit it off before Joerger embarked on a coaching journey that took him through International Basketball Association, the CBA and the NBDL before landing on the Grizzlies’ bench as an assistant. Joerger spent six years as an assistant before getting the chance to be he head coach.
Joerger’s resume appeals to Saunders because he traveled a similar path early in his career, coaching in the CBA before joining the Timberwolves organization.
Saunders has been looking for a candidate with head coaching experience who is prepared to handle a potentially combustible situation with forward Kevin Love. The three-time All-Star can opt out of his contract after next season, which has raised the possibility of him being traded at some point this summer.
Joerger deftly navigated sticky situations in Memphis last season, especially during the team’s poor start. He also showed some flexibility to change a few his offensive philosophies and return the grind-it-out style that the physical Grizzlies preferred, and the team took off.
In Minnesota, Joerger would take over a team that went 40-42 last season and missed the playoffs for the 10th straight year.