A House Divided: All is not well in Minnesota

Young talent, veteran talent, a coach that’s been in contention. Surely that’s a winning formula in today’s NBA. Perhaps not if you’re the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Organizational and locker room infighting isn’t new. But the way it’s going down in Minnesota is straight up weird. Jimmy Butler has asked to be traded. Head coach, President of Basketball Operations and man who’s never not needed a cough drop Tom Thibodeau, doesn’t want Butler to go. Thibs has tried to convince Butler to remain with the Wolves, but that appears as unlikely as Floyd Mayweather starting a book club. Despite Butler’s demands, just a few days ago, Thibs and GM Scott Layden were turning callers away, insisting that Butler was not available for trade.

Enter Wolves owner and human burlap sack, Glen Taylor (see below). Taylor is ready to move on from Butler and has offered to pick up the negotiations if a deal can’t be worked out with Thibs and Layden.

Image result for glen taylor timberwolves public domain

The degree to which Taylor and Thibs aren’t on the same page is kind of astounding and kind of hilarious. Just imagine the chaos in the Wolves’ office right now. Think about Thibs’ poor secretary. “Uhh, Mr. Thibodeau, the Nets are calling… Should I say you’re out to lunch?”

This is the latest episode in a long running series entitled, “Why Coaches Shouldn’t Also Be The President of Basketball Operations in the NBA. Unless Your Name is Gregg Popovich.” Besides the obvious rejoinder that you shouldn’t have one person doing two (insanely difficult!) jobs at the same time, there’s also a finer point.

The POBO (I’m shortening President of Basketball Operations to POBO. This acronym is far overdue.) is responsible for the long term health of an organization, while the coach is charged with winning in the present with the players he’s given. Theoretically, those goals should be aligned. But it’s also true that losing in the short term can bring about winning in the long term. Whatever happens with Butler, the Wolves still have a chance to get a decent return, right the ship, and stay relevant. But if the reason Thibs is reportedly against any sort of rebuild is because it’ll lower the quality of his coaching job, then he is patently unfit to be POBO. A POBO has to be able to stomach a short-term decline if it means greater long-term success. 

It makes perfect sense that Thibs would want to keep Butler. But suppose a day comes when the Wolves talented young core falls apart. The organization needs a POBO that’s in it when times are good and bad.

Maybe I’m being too hard on Thibs. Maybe he’s figured out a way to balance the competing motivations of POBO and coach. Maybe he’s working on a Love Potion to get Butler to fall madly in love with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. But also, why do two jobs when you can do one? No one likes a try hard.

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