It’s only a matter of time before current head coach Rick Adelman decides to call it a career. As a disappointing season comes to a close, the search for a new coach will soon come to the forefront of the T’Wolves to-do list. Fred Hoiberg should be the first name on the list.
Hoiberg is the best person for the job, and for a number of reasons. First, he spent four years working in Minnesota’s front office as Vice President of Basketball Operations. He also played for the Timberwolves for two seasons, including the only time the franchise went to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. Hoiberg is the head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones, the university where he attended college and played for four seasons. Iowa State has been extremely successful since he took over in 2010, with a record of 90-47. He is revered in Ames, Iowa. Nicknamed “The Mayor”, it could be extremely difficult to pull him away from that job.
Unless you’re Flip Saunders. Saunders is very good friends with Hoiberg and that could prove vital if Saunders, who is the President of Basketball Operations for Minnesota, coached Hoiberg for two seasons.
Why would a college coach make a good NBA coach? Well, Hoiberg already runs a “pro-style” system at Iowa State. His team plays an up-tempo style, averaging 83 points per-game (6th in Division I) and his team shoots 47% from the field (40th in Division I). Iowa State’s 83 points per-game translates to 99.5 points per-game in the NBA, but it could be more with Timberwolves, who already average 107 points per-game (3rd best in the NBA).
The biggest difference could come on the defensive end. If you take a look at the Boston Celtics and their new head coach Brad Stevens, who coached at Butler University last season, the Celtics are only giving up 99.8 points per-game, with no Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo was out for half of the season. Doc Rivers is a “defensive-minded” coach, and last season, the Celtics gave up an average of 96.7 points per-game. Last year, the Celtics only scored 96.5 points per-game, less than they gave up. With a below-average roster, the Celtics are scoring 95.7 points per-game. Like Rivers, Stevens is also considered to be a defensive-minded coach. His team is averaging one point less per-game with a worse roster than what Rivers had last year, despite losing Rondo a little more than halfway through last season.
While Hoiberg has never made it to back-to-back championships like Stevens; but unlike Stevens, Hoiberg has 14 years of NBA experience (10 as a player and four in the front office) to help him adjust to being a coach in the NBA. Hoiberg knows exactly how to fit players into his up-tempo office. In three of his four years at Iowa State, Hoiberg has at least four players average double-figures in scoring, and in two seasons, he has had five players average double-figures, while no player has averaged more than 34.5 minutes per-game in the last three years.
I think Ricky Rubio could become a star in Hoiberg’s system; and the Timberwolves, in general, would thrive. Minnesota is not a good defensive team whatsoever. They have no bigs who can protect the rim, with Gorgui Dieng being the exception, but he is only a rookie.
For Hoiberg’s system to experience successful, he will need players who are ready to get up and down the floor, and are efficient shooters. Quicker backup point guards, more athletic wings, and faster bigs are a necessity. I think Kevin Love’s numbers would suffer a little, but I think the system would be successful because Love would become more efficient than he already is.
There is no way the Timberwolves are a lottery team. I don’t play it on anyone but Saunders for constructing a poor bench. They need to shore-up their bench, but hiring Hoiberg could help make the free agency period go more smoothly.