MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Partners in the broadcast booth, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are now rivals in the hunt for the Minnesota Timberwolves' coaching job.
The Timberwolves planned to meet with Jackson after interviewing Van Gundy and former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a person with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not publicly disclosed specifics of its search.
Jackson, who is currently an analyst for ESPN and ABC, has not coached in the NBA since he was fired by the Golden State Warriors in 2014 after three seasons and a 121-109 record that included two trips to the playoffs. He is credited with starting the process that helped build the Warriors into the team that new coach Steve Kerr turned into a juggernaut en route to last year's championship and a record 73 wins this season.
Jackson's exit from Golden State was a messy one as he clashed with Warriors management on the way out. He was a finalist for the Wolves job in 2009, but lost out to Kurt Rambis.
One of Jackson's strengths is that he is able to connect with players given his background as a former standout point guard himself, and his entrance into the Timberwolves race provides a semblance of balance after team owner Glen Taylor started the process with two high-profile names who never played in the league.
Thibodeau is widely considered the most coveted coach on the market. He spent five years with Bulls and helped make them an Eastern Conference contender. But his hard-driving approach never got Chicago over the top and he clashed with management as well while his Bulls teams suffered from injuries that ultimately short-circuited their run.
Jackson and Van Gundy have teamed up with play-by-play man Mike Breen to form ESPN's top NBA broadcast team.
Van Gundy coached the Knicks and Rockets before becoming an analyst, but has been out of the coaching game since 2007. Thibodeau served on his staff with the Knicks, and both have a reputation as defensive-minded coaches.
Both Thibodeau and Van Gundy would be candidates to serve as both president of basketball operations and coach, the same dual role that Flip Saunders held with the Wolves before he died in October. Sam Mitchell served on an interim basis last year as the coach and led the team to 29 wins.
The Timberwolves boast one of the most promising young rosters in the league with back-to-back No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, second-year guard Zach LaVine, big man Gorgui Dieng and point guard Ricky Rubio.
Taylor is receiving guidance in the process from executive Jed Hughes and search firm Korn Ferry.