MINNEAPOLIS (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have opened negotiations with former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to be the team’s new coach and president of basketball operations, a person with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person also said San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager Scott Layden is in talks to join Thibodeau’s front office in Minnesota. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not disclosing details about its negotiations, which were first reported by Yahoo Sports.
Thibodeau is the most coveted coach on the market, and would bring an instant splash of credibility to a franchise that has been among the worst in the NBA for more than a decade. He won nearly 65 percent of his games in five seasons with the Bulls and got his start in the NBA for the expansion Timberwolves as an assistant under Bill Musselman in 1989.
Thibodeau has been a fan and media favorite to fill the coaching vacancy with the New York Knicks, but his unfamiliarity with team president Phil Jackson and his preferred triangle offense made him a long shot.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor also interviewed former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and ex-Knick and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson — who are both currently analysts for ESPN — for the job this week. But he has turned his focus to Thibodeau, who is widely viewed as one of the best in-game strategists in the game.
After watching his team miss the playoffs for 12 straight seasons, the longest active streak in the league, Taylor set out to find an accomplished coach and leader who could come in and immediately instill a culture of competitiveness that has been lacking in Minnesota for years.
Thibodeau was fired by the Bulls last season after clashing with management on his hard-driving style, which included a propensity for playing his most important players more than 40 minutes per night to squeeze out every possible victory from the schedule.
He spent this season visiting different franchises, including spending some time in San Antonio, where Layden has worked under Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford. Layden and Thibodeau have known each other for years, dating to Thibodeau’s days as a Knicks assistant coach when Layden was running the front office.
The pair could take over a team with one of the most promising young rosters in the game. The Timberwolves have the last two No. 1 overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, dynamic shooting guard Zach LaVine and point guard Ricky Rubio, all of whom are 25 or younger.
The talent that was assembled by the late Flip Saunders and GM Milt Newton helped to make the Wolves job one of the most attractive in the league.
Interim coach Sam Mitchell, who took over after Saunders died in October, led the team to a 29-53 record last season. Mitchell was not retained, but was scheduled to interview with the Sacramento Kings.
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