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Report: Sam Mitchell emerges as Timberwolves coaching candidate with Kevin Love’s future undecided

May 18, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic, Game Five Getty Images

The Timberwolves have been methodical about their coaching search to this point, and with good reason. Not only is the upcoming season critical to the franchise’s future fortunes, with Kevin Love able to leave at its conclusion to become an unrestricted free agent, but beyond that, the person they hire must show enough leadership and promise that even if next year were to once again go south, Love can believe that the proper building blocks for winning were put into place.

The uncertain future of the franchise has indeed hampered the pursuit of a head coach, but a legitimate candidate has appeared to emerge, and its one with previous ties to the Timberwolves organization.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As the Minnesota Timberwolves consider the future of All-Star forward Kevin Love, Sam Mitchell has emerged as a serious candidate for the franchise’s head coaching job, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Mitchell left a good impression with Wolves president Flip Saunders in a recent meeting and has moved himself into consideration for the job, league sources said. …

Mitchell has a strong history with Saunders and Minnesota, where he had two stops as a player — 1989-1992 and 1995-2002. Mitchell played for Saunders in his second stint.

Mitchell coached the Toronto Raptors for four full seasons and won coach of the year in 2007, before being replaced early in the 2008-09 season.

Minnesota checked in with some top college coaches to gauge their interest, the report says, but guys like Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg weren’t jumping at the opportunity to leave cushy college gigs to take on the reclamation project that would exist should Love bolt in free agency.

A report from the New York Daily News stated that Love’s “people” continue to make it clear to the Timberwolves that if he isn’t traded next season, he will in fact be gone once it is finished. Wojnarowski’s sources are telling him the same thing.

Beyond the coaching search, the Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who’s anxious to exercise his Early Termination Option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.

“For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.

Depending on just how seriously the Timberwolves are taking these reported overtures, it’s possible we could see a draft day deal involving Love, considering how loaded with talent this year’s class is, along with the fact that the franchise could sell the future to its fan base should it land one of the top three players in exchange for sending Love out of town.

But despite the recent reports, that’s never been Minnesota’s preference. The plan all along has been to try to put pieces around Love to make the Timberwolves into a playoff team, and one that he believes is built for winning over time. If that mission fails, however, it appears as though the team is finally ready to at least consider a future without Love as part of the picture.

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