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Timberwolves
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Timberwolves
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Joerger was on the verge of becoming the next Minnesota Timberwolves coach over the weekend before spurning his mentor to remain with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Joerger, along with former Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell and former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, were reportedly the only three candidates to interview for the Timberwolves coaching vacancy. With Joerger out of the picture, the Minnesota Star Tribune considers Mitchell the frontrunner.

With the news coming Sunday that Dave Joerger and the Grizzlies had patched up their relationship and he would remain the Memphis head coach, the new favorite for the Wolves coaching position has to be Sam Mitchell.

It’s surprising that a Memphis team that had gutted its front office would bring Joerger back, but reports are that the Grizzlies wanted to swap first-round picks in this year’s draft and get a second-round pick in order to let Joerger leave, which was far too steep a price for the Wolves.

So look now for Saunders to target his former player and a well-respected voice in the NBA in Mitchell

Mitchell played with the Timberwolves for 10 years, seven of which current team president Flip Saunders as the head coach. Mitchell was an assistant coach with the Milwaukee bucks from 2002-04 before moving to Toronto, earning NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2007.

Mitchell left a good impression with Saunders after the two met earlier this month, according to Yahoo! Sports.

The Raptors made the playoffs twice during Mitchell’s five years on the sidelines. He was fired 17 games into the 2008-09 season. Mitchell owns a 156-189 mark as the head coach, and has been in the broadcast booth since 2011.

The Minnesota Post suggests there is concern about the length of time since Mitchell has been an NBA coach.

Probably of most concern is that Mitchell hasn’t been a head coach in five years or worked an NBA sideline as an assistant for three years. His regard for analytics is unknown, but given his old school proclivities, I wouldn’t expect a hearty embrace of advanced numbers.

Mitchell is a disciplinarian, however, and personally close to both Taylor and Saunders. The Joerger fiasco may, if anything, make Taylor even more provincial in his hiring decisions — if you can’t trust a kid from Staples with a Mankato State diploma in the family history, you can trust someone you have known and liked for decades, a peer of the Saunders-McHale era.

One other consideration Saunders has to make is whether the hiring of Mitchell would change Kevin Love‘s mind about staying in the Twin Cities. It’s unlikely, but it doesn’t appear as if there is a coach out there that’ll be able to convince Love to stay.