When the Minnesota Timberwolves gently cut interim head coach Sam Mitchell loose at the end of the regular season, one name was at the top of everyone's list to take over the job.
Sounds like they got him.
Adrian Wojnaroski of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Timberwolves and Tom Thibodeau, former coach of the Chicago Bulls, are close to setting terms on a deal to bring the defensive-minded taskmaster to Minnnesota's bench. If agreed to, Thibodeau would have the gig for the next five years. Minnesotans can only dream that run is as good as his first five years in Chicago.
Starting in 2010, Thibodeau amassed a 255-139 win-loss record for the Bulls. Only Gregg Poppovich of the San Antonio Spurs had a better record during that time. Thibodeau's accomplished record is all the more impressive, given that his teams often had to weather the fall of their oft-injured star, Derrick Rose, and make due with the guys that were left.
The Bulls made the playoffs in each of those five years. (Can you imagine?) Minnesota, by contrast, has not made an appearance in the NBA playoffs since 2004.
According to Yahoo, Thibodeau, 58, has convinced Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor that he has a "vision of sustained success and playoff basketball in Minnesota." The on-court pieces are there — man-children Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins look like annual entries to the All-Star Game — but this year's 29-53 record, among the worst in the NBA, showed the team has a lot to figure out before that happens.
That's all on Thibs', if this report bears out: Yahoo says the deal would also make Thibodeau the team president, granting him a similar authority to what was given to the late Flip Saunders.
His defensive focus sounds like what Minnesota was missing: The Wolves allowed 106 points a game this past season, 23rd in the league.
Prior to taking over in Chicago, Thibodeau was an assistant coach to Doc Rivers with the Boston Celtics. Those teams twice made the NBA Finals, winning once, and featured a big forward/center named Kevin Garnett.
And way, way, prior to that, back in 1989-90, Thibodeau got his start as an assistant coach with the expansion franchise Minnesota Timberwolves. Welcome back, Tom.