This is the time of year when NBA coaches are getting fired and stepping down, which means it's also the time of year when your favorite college coaches are inevitably tied to NBA jobs.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the market for a coach after Rick Adelman decided to retire at age 67 on Monday. The outlook doesn't look too great for Minnesota in the next two years — especially if Kevin Love decides to leave — but some elite college coaches are, unsurprisingly, being mentioned for the jobs. Some names? Fred Hoiberg, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan.
It's a thought-provoking list, but are any serious candidates? What incentive would any of these coaches have to leave the college ranks?
Hoiberg might be the most logical fit in the NBA of the current crop of rising college coaches. He comes with a connection to the Timberwolves, too, as Hoiberg served as Minnesota's Vice President of Basketball Operations after finishing his career in Minnesota. Hoiberg is also losing his two best players at Iowa State from last season to graduation -- point guard DeAndre Kane and Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim. Is it enough to push him out the door?
It seems unlikely. Hoiberg is only 41 years old and received a raise from Iowa State just weeks ago. It's possible he'll make the jump to the NBA eventually, but the timing and the situation may not be right just yet, even with all of his ties to the Timberwolves. Hoiberg -- an Ames native and Iowa State grad -- would probably want a better team before the leap. If the Thunder ever canned Scott Brooks and came calling, it might be enough to push him out the door.
Izzo is an interesting case. He was brought up as a potential candidate for the Pistons because he already coaches in Michigan and many people thought he was close to taking the Cavaliers job in 2011. Now he's been brought up for the Timberwolves job because of his relationship with Minnesota president of basketball operations Flip Saunders.
But those two make sense at least to a degree. If there are any ties at all, college coaches will be mentioned for an NBA job, whether it's actually a possibility or not.
Donovan's inclusion, however, is curious. He briefly took a job with the Magic, before he didn't. Now he's reemerged as an NBA candidate after an impressive season by the Gators that saw them take the No. 1overall seed in to the tournament and reach the Final Four.
Been discussing Izzo/Hoiberg for some time as candidates to replace Adelman, but here's a new name I'm told interests Wolves: Billy Donovan— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 21, 2014
Wolves vowing comprehensive search to find coach who can help them persuade Kevin Love to stay. Donovan, I'm told, has emerged as new target— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 21, 2014
Donovan is an attractive candidate for obvious reasons. He won back-to-back national championships at Florida in 2006 and 2007, thanks to a loaded roster that featured Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer. His Gators teams have reached the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament the last four years. He is known as a strong recruiter, and he does an even better job of getting his talented players to buy into his system. That's half the battle in the NBA.
Donovan is also the head coach of the USA's U18 Team and led the squad to a gold medal in the 2012 FIBA Championships. There has already been talk that he will replace Mike Krzyzewski once he steps down in a few years as head coach of Team USA's olympic team, as well.
It's a strange idea — assuming a college coach is the key to Kevin Love's heart — but that seems to be the strategy here. But considering its situation, Minnesota faces a challenge: Identifying a good college coach is easy, but getting them to come to the NBA is much harder.
The NBA might be "the next level" for players, but is it really the next level for coaches? If a coach is winning in college, it can't be easy to get him to give that up for a job that seems to set its coaches up for failure. Hoiberg, Izzo and Donovan all have history showing that line of decision-making. But regardless, Minnesota seems intent on trying.