When Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders died tragically before the beginning of last season, the front office pegged assistant coach Sam Mitchell to step in and shepherd their young core through the 2015-2016 campaign on an interim basis. As time went on, however, it became clear that Mitchell wasn’t the long-term solution for this team. So at the end of the season, the Wolves parted ways with Mitchell and landed their number one target to replace him, Tom Thibodeau.
Such is the job security of an NBA head coach. Mitchell claims that he understands that reality, but in a recent interview with Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500, makes the argument that his firing could’ve been handled more professionally, given his history with the franchise. Hat tip to Pro Basketball Talk’s Dan Feldman for the text of that segment:
It’s just tough, man. I don’t know where – still to this day, I don’t think about it or dwell on it, because I understand that the NBA is not fair, that life is not fair.
So, again, the way things were handled in Minnesota, I was totally shocked. I had always given the organization credit for how they treated people in the past and being a first-class organization. But to be treated that way after 13 years, I think I have a right to feel a certain way about it.
And again, not bitter. Not angry. I’m happy. I’m moving on with my life and doing other things, and I’m happy. But Minnesota was home for me for a long time. I had a lot of good friends there, and I just never thought I would be treated that way on my way out the door. But, again, that’s life and it is what it is, and you get better for it.
No target was safe from Mitchell’s criticism in that interview. He chastises owner Glen Taylor for notifying him of his ouster in a “30-second phone call” rather than calling a meeting and sitting down together and later sets his sights on Thibodeau, someone he’s known for years, for not having the courtesy to contact him about his decision to accept the job. He then takes new general manager Scott Layden to task for waiting a month and a half after his termination before finally reaching out to him.
It’d be easy to chalk this up to sour grapes on Mitchell’s part. He obviously wanted to keep his job coaching one of the most promising young teams in the league. It’s hugely disappointing, and some of his complaints may even be legitimate. But nobody knows exactly what went on behind the scenes or what ultimately led to management’s decision to go another direction. All we know for sure is that the NBA’s coaching carousel will continue on its merry way, indiscriminately flinging bodies in every direction.