The Timberwolves finally make the move that everyone’s been waiting a year for in firing Dwane Casey, and the national media are tearing them to shreds. ESPN’s abuzz with questions of why the Timberwolves, a consensus pick for the lottery, would fire their coach when they’re at .500 and currently locked in for the 8th spot in the West. These types of questions and arguments further cement the fact that the talking heads at ESPN are slightly lacking in the brain department.[ad2] In their hurry to knock on the Wolves once again, they’ve completely forgotten the history of this team. Three years ago, we were on a run to the Western Conference Finals. Bad attitudes knocked us off course the next year, forcing the Wolves into a rebuidling project last season. The Wolves struggled last year and ended with the sixth worst record in the league. Part of that was due to a new group of players needing to adjust to each other, then needing to adjust again when another new group of players came in. Part of it was due to blatant tanking for a better draft pick. But a larger part of that awful record was due to Dwane Casey’s inability to be a head coach.
This year the Wolves added some talent and those along with some internal improvement have pushed the Wolves into the playoff picture. Many are surprised that the Timberwolves have done so well, using the flawed logic that teams in the lottery usually stay in the lottery. What everyone forgot was that this year HAD to be better than last year. You can’t get lower than rock bottom. So the Wolves were bound to improve. The Timberwolves have Kevin Garnett, a top 5 talent in this league, Randy Foye, a rookie of the year candidate, and a supporting cast that includes Ricky Davis, Mike James, and Mark Blount. While this may not be a championship squad, that’s far from a pathetic lineup. And in a league where over half the teams get to the post-season, it’s a lineup that should see some playoff action.
So while it’s not often that a team expected to be in the lottery fires its coach when they’re at .500 and bound for the playoffs, the Timberwolves are in an unusual situation. First off, the Timberwolves were supremely underrated going into the season. And secondly, whether the folks at the worldwide leader know it or not, the Timberwolves are at .500 and holding down the 8th playoff spot in spite of Dwane Casey. Don’t get me wrong, Dwane was an extremely nice person, but his lack of gameplan, irrational substitution patterns, and inability to motivate and control the locker room were crippling the Timberwolves. Had the front office not finally made the move that Wolves fans had been begging for, it’s tough to say whether the Wolves would have held it together and taken the last spot, or spiralled out of control. Over the past few weeks, things were dangerously approaching the latter in Minnesota.
I can’t imagine Randy Wittman not being an upgrade at this position, but if there’s one bone I have to pick with the front office on this move, it’s naming him the replacement. The word coming from the Timberwolves’ management is that they feel Wittman never received a fair shake in his first 60-100′ish stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers and that he’s got a lot to offer. But the last time I heard those words coming from Kevin McHale’s mouth, it was in referrence to Dwane Casey. With many more experience options out there, like Rick Adelman, I would hope that the Timberwolves shopped around a bit before simply handing the reigns to Randy Whittman. My gut, however, leads me to believe that they quickly took the easy road and hired from within.
Hopefully the Randy Wittman promotion will have a different ending than the last time the Wolves pulled a mid-season coaching switch. I’m counting on hiim to bring this team back to the playoffs. With the Wolves currently in the playoff picture, that’s not a stretch by any means. Like I said before, you can’t get lower than rock bottom.