Karl-Anthony Towns, Tom Thibodeau

The Minnesota Timberwolves have found their new coach. The Wolves hired Tom Thibodeau to be Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations on Wednesday. Earlier in the week it had come out that the search for coach had narrowed to Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy, two of the best coaching free agents available. They interviewed Thibs last week and JVG on Monday. Thibodeau seemed to be the right guy for the job all along. JVG has been a successful coach in this league, but hasn’t coached since 2007.

There are two aspects to the Thibodeau hiring. The first is Tom Thibodeau “Head Coach.” Who exactly are the Wolves getting in their new head coach? Simply put, Thibs is a defensive guru. He entered the league as an assistant coach back in 1989 for the Wolves (he must have enjoyed those two years). He bounced around the league as an assistant until he landed in Boston in 2007 as a main assistant to Doc Rivers. That Boston team was obviously very successful and a lot of that success hinged on their defense. Thibodeau is regarded as the architect for the defensive system throughout the early KG-Pierce-Allen years that led them to a title in 2008 and a finals appearance in 2010. He left Boston in 2010 for his first head coaching gig in Chicago. Throughout his tenure in Chicago they never won fewer than 45 games and they made it past the first round of the playoffs three times (something the Wolves franchise has only done once in 27 years). He turned Joakim Noah into an All-NBA level player and Jimmy Butler into an All-Star and All-Defense type of player. The Jimmy Butler transformation is something to note here. He was not a highly touted prospect when he got to Chicago. He was the last pick in the first round of the 2011 Draft, and Thibs helped turn him into a top-20 player in this league. Andrew Wiggins is a similar player to Butler and Thibs may be able to mold him as he did Butler. The Wolves have two solid defensive starters in Rubio and Towns (and Thibs will help those two become even better), if Wiggins can become that wing stopper that every team needs the defense could vault into “elite” status

The other aspect to this is a little less exciting, but maybe equally important. We are going to get to see Tom Thibodeau “Front Office Executive.” Thibs notably clashed with the Bulls front office and it ultimately led to his demise in Chicago, so it’s understandable that he sought this expanded role in his next job. However, he has never taken on a role like this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just an unknown. It’s good for the coach and front office to be on the same page, but it’s a little different when the coach is the front office. He may try to bring in some of his former players, which could be a good thing. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are both free agents this summer and could be good veterans to bring in. There have been highly speculative rumblings circulating the depths of the internet about Thibodeau targeting Jimmy Butler in a trade, which would be amazing, but again, there is nothing concrete to rumors of such a blockbuster trade. The Wolves have another important draft pick coming their way this June, and this draft isn’t as loaded as last year’s. When the Wolves are picking there may not be an obvious choice on the board, so we’ll get to see his talent evaluating chops put to the test. He will have some help though. Scott Layden was brought in to be the GM in conjunction with Thibodeau’s hiring. Layden was with the Spurs recently and they have been a model franchise over the last 20 years so hopefully he can bring some of that institutional knowledge to Minnesota with him.

Overall this move is a home run. Tom Thibodeau is a great NBA coach and a proven winner. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this team now, as there should be. The Wolves are in the midst of a 12-year playoff drought and there is some light at the end of that tunnel now. It might not end next year, but the end is near. I leave you with this image of Thibodeau from the last time he coached for our beloved franchise.

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