The Tom Thibodeau era for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves is over.
Within the last few hours the Timberwolves have fired Thibodeau, who was both the head coach and team president. The news was first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
While the timing of the decision is confusing given Minnesota just won a lopsided 108-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the day, it has been a long time coming. Thibodeau’s trademark hard nose coaching style and tendency to play starters extensive minutes eroded his relationship with both players and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.
Nothing highlighted this divide more Thibodeau’s handling of forward Jimmy Butler’s trade request. His outright refusal to want to trade Butler had him sabotage a potential deal with the Miami Heat as it was set to be completed. He also ignored another offer from the Houston Rockets that reportedly included four first round draft picks. These instances reduced Minnesota’s leverage in negotiating a deal. When Butler returned to the Timberwolves after holding out in the preseason he orchestrated one of the most infamous practices the league has witnessed, and seemingly did so with Thibodeau’s blessing.
Ultimately Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric, and only after Taylor stepped in.
Assistant coach Ryan Saunders, son of late beloved Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, will take over as interim coach. Scott Layden will take over front office duties.