Wednesday afternoon, in the midst of the NBA Playoffs, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally found their man. Tom Thibodeau, former Chicago Bulls Head-Coach, was given complete control; Thibodeau was named Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations. The team also hired Scott Layden to serve as Minnesota’s GM.
Thibodeau coached the Bulls for five seasons, from 2010-11 until 2014-15. In that time, the Bulls made the playoffs all five seasons, made it to the Conference Semifinals three times, and even the Conference Finals once. Thibodeau’s career winning-percentage is .647. Here is Thibodeau’s record each year in Chicago.
The Timberwolves, after the tragic death of Coach Flip Saunders last year, were in desperate need of a new coach. Interim coach Sam Mitchell was in over his head, winning only 29 games. With young talent in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves know they need someone to help them back to the playoffs.
Coach Thibodeau is the right person for the job.
Even though the Bulls and Thibodeau parted ways before this season, many thought it was a poor decision. Despite the injuries to key players like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in years past, Thibodeau’s gritty defensive style always lead the Bulls to the playoffs. For Minnesota, that’s exactly what they need.
The Timberwolves ranked 23rd in defensive PPG allowed, and 28th in opponent’s FG%. This is especially unacceptable considering the raw defensive talent on the team, as Wiggins and Towns both figure to be premier defensive players as they continue to grow.
During his time in Chicago, look at Thibodeau’s defensive ranks in those two key categories:
Even if Thibodeau doesn’t have the same personnel in Minnesota, he brings a strong defensive pedigree. In his assistant coaching days, Thibodeau had the same strong reputation – he’s given a lot of credit for the Boston Celtics’ stellar defense in their 2008 championship run. The Timberwolves should notice his impact immediately.
Joining the likes of Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy, Thibodeau is part of a newer breed of coaches that hybrid as the President of Basketball Operations as well. Though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Rivers or Van Gundy, both of them have taken their teams back to the playoffs. When you have a great coach, like Thibodeau, it’s a smart decision to give him control over the roster. The Timberwolves are in a good position.
It’s too early to call the Timberwolves playoff contenders for next season, especially since this season is still in progress, but it’s not that hard to imagine. Thibodeau, along with Wiggins, Towns, and the rest of their young core, have an excellent chance to be back in the playoffs as soon as the 2016-17 season.
For Minnesota fans, there is hope for the future now. And after their struggles in the post-Kevin Garnett years, the Timberwoleves deserve some hope.
Statistics provided by: ESPN.com and basketball-reference.com
Images thanks to: NBC Sports, bullsnation.net, NBA.com, SB Nation