Takeaways from Thibs: Wolves Introduce New Coach

The Timberwolves held a press conference this afternoon at Target Center to introduce Scott Layden as General Manager and — more importantly — Tom Thibodeau as President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach. Alan Horton kicked things off with brief biographical information about the two newest Wolves employees before handing it off to Glen Taylor for a more personal introduction. Young Wolves players were there in the front row, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, and Tyus Jones.

What follows are some bullet-point takeaways of mine from the presser. This type of event is a lot like Media Day where most of the statements made are at least partially canned or prepared answers, replete with cliches or phrases, and very few remarks that can be construed as controversial or meaningful. However, I do my best as a fan-blogger with more interpretative leeway than a professional journalist to listen closely and parse what’s said, looking for any shreds of substance possible.

Here goes:

  • Glen wants a championship, badly.

This isn’t very interesting and it certainly isn’t controversial. But it was sort of interesting how Glen compared this particular opportunity to “go for the top,” to two others in his time as Wolves owner: When they had Marbury and Garnett (as my last post discussed) and the 2004 run when they teamed KG with Cassell and Sprewell. Taylor views this as a third opportunity, and he made clear that he views this as a very long-term situation. He all but stated that he is going to remain owner as long as Thibs and Layden are here, and that he thinks it will be longer than the five years each is under contract. He’s committing to something big, deep into the future.

  • Thibs has friends in the Chicago media.

At least three of them were sitting behind me, and I only knew this because he kept flashing big smiles our direction and eventually it became clear that they were reporting for Chicago outlets. Thibs took the high road on his Bulls tenure, thanking Jerry Reinsdorf for “taking a chance” on him, and refusing to play along with their attempts at generating a story about hard feelings. He repeated that his experience there was mostly “very, very positive,” and that nothing is perfect.

  • There will be more separation of powers than there will be checks and balances.

Thibs is President and Layden is GM. What does that mean, in practical terms?

Nobody knows. Thibs was asked twice to explain his powers versus Layden’s and he avoided the details in both answers. He emphasized “alignment,” which is another way of saying “agreement.”

My takeaway is that Layden will be doing a whole lot of work in the front office, but every major decision requires Thibs stamp of approval. You don’t get the sense from listening to both men speak that there will be much trouble between them. You also don’t get the sense that Thibs will be overruled on any decisions he wants to make.

  • Kevin Garnett might retire, which is what Thibs would like to see happen.

My sense from everything Thibs has said, and also what KG told ESPN.com in a recent interview, is that the Timberwolves want Garnett to retire so that they can have the extra $8 Million in cap space this summer. Thibs was asked a leading question today that suggested he should want KG to return.

Here was his response verbatim:

Right now it is premature to speak on that until I have an opportunity to sit down and talk to him. I think he has earned that right. I want to sit down and see what he is thinking, how he is feeling, and then we will take it from there. At this point I don’t want to speak on that.

(Emphasis mine.)

If Thibs wanted KG to return, it would be very easy to just say that. “Of course we want Kevin back if he feels he can play and he wants to be back.” Instead it is premature to discuss because Garnett “has earned that right.” He’s earned the respect to go out on his own terms… but boy, do we hope he goes out right now.

Both Thibs and Layden talked a lot about this team’s roster “flexibility,” and they each talked about three phases coming up of “draft, free agency, and trades.” You don’t get as much flexibility in the wheeling and dealing if you’ve got $8 Million clogged up by a mostly-useless big man. (Especially when you’ve got another $12 Million clogged up in Pek, another one.)

  • Artificially lowering expectations will no longer be a thing.

Remember when Rick Adelman came here and they started winning some games?

I do too.

That was fun.

Thibs wasn’t doing any Tim Brewster sales pitches about future rings or any other specific promises, but when asked about expectations he said that he does not want to put any lid on what they can do, and that he wants to prepare like they are going to be in the playoffs.

That’s refreshing. I look forward to watching a team with winning goals.

  • Thibs has some common buzz phrases.

Lots of coaches do. Lots of teachers do. Lots of public speakers do.

He talks constantly about “what goes into winning.” He said his players need to understand why you win, and why you lose. One time he said, with slight pause between each, that his players need to:

Know what your job is.

Do your job.

Every day.

  • Thibs wants to be known as a “balanced” coach, but his perfectionist streak is in defense.

More than once Thibs talked about the defense of the current Timberwolves, and certain specific players, and he said that they need to “correct” it. They need to “correct” their defense and rebounding.

Apparently, it was “incorrect” before.

This is a person who knows how he wants certain things done a specific way, watches to ensure that it’s being done that way, and blows the whistle when it isn’t done that way to explain exactly how it was done before and how it needs to be done next time. And every time after that. This is how coaching works. There’s more to it than out-of-bounds plays and managing minutes.

  • Expect an active off-season.

This is probably the most general, biggest picture takeaway. These guys know the league, they know everybody working in it, and they know all of the players in it. They aren’t going to do anything stupid like trade away KAT or Wiggins, but don’t be surprised by much else. It isn’t hard to see that the Wolves have their two franchise pillars in place, and they have a ton of assets and flexibility to start winning a lot of games; especially with a top-level coach. It’ll be a lot of speculation at times — especially from @PDWolves on Twitter (that’s fun, right?) — but I think there will be some serious moves made by the Wolves before the next training camp.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Patrick J and I will be recording a podcast at some point in the next week or so that’ll probably look back on last season (we never officially put a cap on it via blog post) and discuss all this recent action with an eye toward the offseason.

Until then.



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4 responses to “Takeaways from Thibs: Wolves Introduce New Coach

  1. Steve

    Something that stood out to me in this press conference was his example of how the Spurs changed their offensive strategy when they brought in LaMarcus Aldridge. He mentioned how they changed their offensive strategy to become more of a power game, to incorporate the changing roster. Their three point attempts per game dropped from 15th in the league to 25th in the league this season. However, they still maintained one of the best offenses in the league without taking as many threes.

    He went on to say that if you try and copy the Golden State Warriors offensive strategy you will lose because you don’t have a roster that is built like Golden State who is loaded with shooters. You have to look at your strengths and weaknesses and play to those, instead of trying to copy strategies that other teams have because they have completely different rosters.

    This is a point I was making before when people kept on saying how the Twolves needed a modern offense and need to shoot more threes. This whole modern offense argument only works when you have a team with good shooters.

    On a side note, the description of Zach Lavine in the press conference wasn’t very flattering. He basically just said he has improved. I wouldn’t be shocked if Zach got traded this off season.

    • Rodman99

      Will be interesting to see if they trade any young players. You’d think he’d want a chance to train them and see if they can evolve. I wouldn’t guess there won’t be major trades, but at the same time I wouldn’t be shocked.

  2. jmndodge

    There is room for 3 to 6 additions to the roster. Prince/KG/Payne/Rudez/Smith and a vacant spot – We need a backup veteran PG for depth – a free agent SF/PF – and two draft picks likely the best wings available. Payne and Rudez will have to fight for their roster position (if a trade is possible go for it) and unless KG retires – one of them needs to be gone for sure. The core group won on emotion early – struggled greatly to develop a game – came together after the Martin buyout and Miller release – putting Jones into the rotation and keeping Zach on the floor at SG. If they maintain the competitive edge of the final 3 weeks of the season – they are a playoff contender (even with Sam and no additions) but add a couple of picks, a free agent ready to contribute, and a backup PG for insurance and Tibbs has a strong roster to work with. Mid-season trades could happen if one or two of the core fail to adapt to new offensive/deffensive game plans or personal expectations. Tibbs wants to win now – without sacrificing the future. Will be fun to watch.