Saunders: Wolves looking for new coach with track record of success

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said Monday he doesn't want Minnesota to lose the "offensive identity" instilled by recently retired coach Rick Adelman.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — The next chapter of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball began Monday when head coach Rick Adelman announced what many anticipated: he’s retiring after 23 seasons as an NBA coach.

While Adelman can enjoy his retirement and spend more time with his family, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has a busy time ahead of him. He and owner Glen Taylor must now find someone to replace the 67-year-old Adelman as Minnesota’s new head coach.

"We are geared more towards bringing someone we feel has a track record, that has had some success," Saunders said Monday. "We will look in that direction."

Saunders said that didn’t necessarily mean the team will look solely at candidates with NBA head coaching experience, noting that they will keep an open mind during the search. Two names rumored to be in the mix are a pair of college coaches: Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg — who played for the Timberwolves — and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who has a good relationship with Saunders.

A former head coach himself, Saunders was asked Monday if there’s a chance he could return to the coaching ranks — or if he would be capable of doing so while still running the front office.

"I’m not going to answer that," Saunders said. "Ideally, we’re going to do a search. The search isn’t just coming to talk to me. I’m going to go about. There’s people we’ll sit down with and talk. We’ll put together a list, see the interest those people have and we’ll make decisions based on that."

Adelman retires with 1,042 career wins, which ranks eighth all time among NBA coaches. In his three seasons in Minnesota, Adelman posted win totals of 26, 31 and 40.

Additionally, Adelman installed an offense that became his calling card during his career. During his 23 seasons, 14 of his teams finished in the top five in the NBA in scoring.

"One thing that Rick has brought to this team is an offense and an offensive identity," Saunders said. "We don’t want to lose that offensive identity."

The Timberwolves said Adelman will remain with the team for now as a consultant. He was asked if he’ll have input on who the new coach is or whether he’d talk to the new coach about what to expect.

"I’ve talked to Glen about the team and Flip, Flip and I have talked about the team, but that’s something that Flip and (general manager) Milt (Newton) and those people have that job to do to improve this group," Adelman said. "I fully trust they’re going to do the right thing. They know the league, they know the game, they know the players. . . . Any information I can give, any opinion I can give, I’m more than glad to do that. But that’ll be between us."

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There’s another factor that could impact the Wolves’ coaching search: Kevin Love. Minnesota’s star forward can opt out of his contact after next season, so finding a coach who is compatible with Love — and could perhaps convince him to stay in Minnesota — is important.

"I don’t know if it’ll change anyone from making that decision," Saunders said. "The league has changed. Our league is a short-window league of about three years. It seems that way when you look at a lot of these teams. So things can change very readily, both for the good and for the bad."

Saunders said he doesn’t have a timeline for when he hopes to make the hire. With the NBA playoffs currently underway, there are potential candidates whose teams are still playing. He also said the new coach wouldn’t necessarily have to be on board by the NBA Draft on June 26.

As Saunders and Co. search for Adelman’s replacement, there’s no doubt they’ll do their due diligence. After all, whoever takes over will be following in the shoes of a Hall of Fame coach and will attempt to lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

"What you have to look at is you have to look at the organization, what we’re trying to put in place and the vision that we have," Saunders said. "Is that going to be a vision that they’re going to be comfortable with for the long haul? That’s the main thing that we’re trying to show to any prospective coaches."

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