MINNEAPOLIS — The rubble from the Dave Joerger saga has settled, and the Timberwolves are still without a coach.
No one to usher in the next era of Minnesota’s hoped rise above mediocrity. No clarity as to whether said head man can keep Kevin Love on board or lure some free-agent capital with the freed-up cap space left behind. No on-court voice to weigh in on draft prospects and the organization’s direction.
And all that’s just fine, general manager Milt Newton said.
"We’re not rushed for time to select a coach," a coy Newton told reporters gathered Thursday at Minnesota’s first pre-draft workout session. "The process is going to take care of itself, but I guarantee you we will have one before the season starts next year."
In his own public comments regarding the club’s 11th head coach, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has said the team doesn’t necessarily need Rick Adelman’s replacement by the June 26 draft. At the rate things are going, the selection extravaganza may pass by without a hire.
Or, as the Joerger debacle exhibited, things can pick up steam much quicker.
Joerger’s signing as Minnesota’s guy appeared all but a done deal till the Staples, Minn., native flew back to Memphis and decided the Grizzlies’ counteroffer to stay with them was a better option. That leaves former Timberwolves player and Raptors coach Sam Mitchell and Lionel Hollins, whom Joerger replaced in Memphis, as the top potential candidates that have been interviewed.
Just Thursday, reports surfaced Minnesota is greatly interested in Vinny Del Negro, who interviewed for the job last week. But others say there’s not much substance to that track.
George Karl’s still technically available. Former NBA head coach Scott Skiles, too. So is Saunders himself, if the Timberwolves can’t find a more suitable option for the upcoming season.
So on the cycle goes. A namedrop here, an anonymous source claiming something fresh there.
Timberwolves brass aren’t panicking, Newton said, maintaining the tight-lipped stance the team’s taken since Rick Adelman retired following three seasons in charge.
Saunders and Milton, the pair maintains, are fully capable of handling personnel decisions in the interim. That means trade talks, free agency and preparing for the draft as they did on Thursday.
"It’s not hot and heavy right now, but I think there’s a lot of planting seeds early just so people know what their intent is," Newton said when asked about trade talk, much of which centers around superstar power forward Kevin Love. "I think it picks up more at the draft and after that."
Saunders ran the show Thursday, directing a group of long-shot draft hopefuls through a series of drills and scrimmage scenarios on the Target Center’s main floor. Former Minnesota Gophers guard Austin Hollins was among the six participants, though he was limited due to some leg cramping.
Hollins, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard and the 2014 NIT’s most outstanding player, doesn’t show up on any major mock drafts. His best chance at professional hoops is landing a spot on an NBA Summer League team, showing well there and either cracking a training camp roster or playing overseas.
"You know what? What names show up on the draft board is out of my control," said Austin Hollins, who started all 38 games for Minnesota and averaged 12.4 points per game as a senior. "I’m just blessed that I had the opportunity to come out here and work out. I’m going to work my butt off in every chance I get.
"Of course I want to play in the NBA; that’s my first goal. But if that doesn’t work out, I’m open to going overseas."
The same could likely be said of the day’s other featured professional aspirants. Like Hollins, Louisville forward Chane Behanan, Mercer guard Langston Hall, Oregon forward Mike Moser, Massachusetts guard Chaz Williams and Serbian forward Adin Vrabac have a lot to prove if they hope to receive a call on draft day.
But they’re important for the Wolves to at least look at, Newton said, because they have three second-round picks and want to vet all possible options.
"Not all the second-round picks are probably going to be on the team next year, so you want to be in the position to select guys and maybe have them play over in Europe," Newton said. "But the players that we had are guys that we would look at, and at the end of the day you may have a guy that really impressed you play well in the summer league and be able to maybe find a spot on your team."
As of now, that’s Saunders’ decision, with input from Newton and assistants like David Adelman and Calvin Booth, who both were on hand Thursday. Some clubs would prefer to hire a coach then draft to fit his style, but Newton doesn’t necessarily agree with that notion.
"It varies from organization to organization," said Newton, who worked in the Wizards’ front office before joining Saunders’ staff last offseason. "Previous stops I’ve been, I believe in putting a lot of the emphasis and opinions with the guys that have seen those players during the entire season. A lot of times, you want the coach to come and get that look test to view the prospects, so it kind of depends on an organization."