Sources: Tom Thibodeau pursuing full team control

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Tom Thibodeau is pursuing the Minnesota Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations and coaching job because of his determination to have full control of an organization, league sources told The Vertical.

Tom Thibodeau (AP)
Tom Thibodeau (AP)

Thibodeau wants to have final say on player personnel, organizational philosophy and hirings, league sources said, and that’s only available with the Minnesota opening now.

If he doesn't end up with Minnesota, Thibodeau will still consider coaching jobs without full control, but his preference is clearly to have it, league sources said.

The lure of hiring his own general manager and constructing a contender around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins has made Thibodeau more determined in pursuit of the Minnesota job, league sources said. Minnesota ownership is completing its meetings with Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy on Monday and is expected to move quickly in making an offer, league sources said.

Thibodeau’s appetite for organizational power has been unmistakable to Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor in the process, league sources said.

Several teams with openings have interest in Thibodeau as a coach, including Washington and Houston, but those organizations aren’t offering full control, sources said. The Sacramento coaching job is open, but Thibodeau has no interest in the Kings’ organization, sources said.

The search firm Korn Ferry has been influential in the Minnesota process and has recommended this coach-as-president structure to Taylor, league sources said. Among the NBA executives Korn Ferry leans on for advice, Thibodeau has had significant allies and support, sources said.

Korn Ferry was instrumental in the hiring of Stan Van Gundy as president and coach with the Detroit Pistons, and the firm has been a strong advocate of the two finalists in Minnesota: Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy.

Taylor is expected to be willing to pay a $7 million-a-year package to an elite candidate, comparable to Stan Van Gundy’s deal with Detroit, league sources said.

Thibodeau spent time this season traveling around the NBA and studying franchise models, San Antonio and Detroit among them. How Thibodeau handles power – and how he interacts with a GM that reports to him as president – is a source of intrigue and curiosity around the league.

After five successful seasons as coach of the Chicago Bulls, Thibodeau was fired in 2015 largely because of his inability to work with management.

Korn Ferry has already started to identify possible general manager candidates to pair with a new president and coach in Minnesota, including San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden and Memphis Grizzlies executive VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski, league sources said. Layden (Utah and New York) and Stefanski (Philadelphia) each have GM experience in the NBA.

Milt Newton is the Timberwolves GM now, and it is unclear how – or if – he would continue in any organizational role if Taylor goes through with the hiring of one of his top two candidates.

Jeff Van Gundy is intrigued with the structure that his brother, Stan, employs in Detroit, but that hasn’t been a driving factor in his desire to return to coaching, league sources said. Jeff Van Gundy has been diligent in considering potential coaching situations in which he can have a strong working relationship and shared vision with a potential team’s current GM and owner, league sources said.

Jeff Van Gundy is at the top of the Houston Rockets’ list of potential candidates along with Thibodeau, league sources said. Jeff Van Gundy resigned as Rockets coach in 2007 after four seasons and still lives in Houston.

The Rockets won’t begin a coaching search until the team’s postseason ends. Houston is trailing Golden State 1-0 in their Western Conference first-round series. Jeff Van Gundy doesn’t discuss jobs with teams who have a coach in place, and J.B. Bickerstaff has been the Rockets’ interim coach since the firing of Kevin McHale in November.

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