MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tom Thibodeau came to Minnesota for the impressive young core of talent assembled.
He came to the Timberwolves for the shiny new facilities and the chance to take over a team that has been at the bottom of the NBA and bring it back into the playoffs.
And he came to work with a close friend in Scott Layden, forming a partnership with a man he has trusted for nearly two decades after he clashed with Bulls management in a messy exit from the Chicago last spring.
"For me personally, this is about alignment," Thibodeau said on Tuesday in a press conference that introduced him as the new Timberwolves president of basketball operations and coach. "It's not about power. It's not about any of that stuff. I've known Scott a long time. We've shared philosophies with each other about certain things. He was the person that I really wanted. So I'm glad we had the opportunity to get him."
Layden comes to Minnesota after four years as an assistant general manager in San Antonio. The two got to know each other when Layden was the GM of the New York Knicks and Thibodeau was an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy's coaching staff back in 1999.
"I was an assistant coach at the time and he talked to me all the time about what do you see, what do you think," Thibodeau said. "Those were important questions to me."
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor broke the bank to bring these two in to reshape a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2004. He spent more than $10 million on the pair, with the bulk of the money going to Thibodeau, widely regarded to be the best coach available on the market.
The move to get Layden may turn out to be equally important. The son of a coach, Layden also was an executive in Utah and New York and spent the last four years learning under Popovich and Buford in San Antonio.
"We have this saying where you go in a room, you debate, you disagree, but the most important thing is coming out of the room committed, and we will be committed," Layden said. "I certainly have known Coach a long time. It is about the relationship, it is about doing this together. Coach has the president's title, but I actually think the title of coach is as important if not more important. That is the way I grew up. I am thrilled with this relationship."
Armed with a team that has an impressive array of young players including Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, Taylor felt the need to act quickly and decisively because he sees this moment as the third time since he bought the team in 1995 to build a championship contender.
"We have an outstanding group of young players," Taylor said. "And this is a unique opportunity for us to go for the championship again. Not for one year. Not for two years. But over many years if we can put this together right."
Taylor, who has entertained selling a minority share in the team to a group led by Memphis Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan with the plan that Kaplan would one day take over as majority partner, also made it clear that he is in this for the long haul. He gave both Thibodeau and Layden five-year contracts and said he doesn't envision handing over power during the duration of those deals.
"I'm with these guys for the long run," the 75-year-old Taylor said. "This is not going to be a one-year, two-year, three-year, four-year, five-year deal. In my mind, this is going to be longer than that and I'm committed to this team over that period of time."
That kind of stability is what the young Wolves have been searching for after a tumultuous season. Beloved president and coach Flip Saunders died just days before the season started and coach Sam Mitchell and GM Milt Newton basically went through the entire year on a trial basis.
"I love stability, so the ability to know who you're going to have every year, it brings a sense of relief and a comfort," Towns said. "We're just following Glen Taylor's direction and going down the same path."
Returning to the city where he got his NBA start after spending a year away has clearly energized Thibodeau. He spoke fondly of being an assistant under Bill Musselman on the first two Timberwolves teams and said he holds no ill will toward the Bulls organization, particularly GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson.
"I learned a lot from that whole situation," Thibodeau said. "Most of my experience there was very, very positive. When you look back, nothing's going to be perfect. But in the end, when you look at it all, I look back on that experience as very positive for me."