MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Dave Joerger met with Timberwolves leadership on Saturday for the second time in three days, this time with owner Glen Taylor included as the two sides move toward bringing the Memphis Grizzlies coach back to coach in his home state, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
No final decisions have been made and Joerger returned to Memphis on Saturday night, still firmly in the driver's seat to replace the retired Rick Adelman. The people requested anonymity because the Timberwolves are not commenting publicly on the search process.
Joerger, who is from Staples, Minnesota and went to college at Minnesota State, Moorhead, met with Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders on Thursday, then met with several Wolves officials, including Taylor, for a second interview on Saturday evening. The meetings went well and all signs point to him taking over, but there are still several factors that need to be considered before the process is completed.
Joerger went 50-32 in his first season as an NBA head coach in Memphis and helped the Grizzlies to the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff field. He is still under contract for two more seasons, but Grizzlies owner Robert Pera recently fired CEO Jason Levien and director player personnel Stu Lash in an abrupt house-cleaning after the team lost in the first round to Oklahoma City.
The decision put Joerger on the hot seat, and the Grizzlies granted the Timberwolves permission to interview him on Wednesday.
If the Timberwolves do ultimately decide to hire Joerger, the Grizzlies could ask for compensation to allow Joerger out of his contract, perhaps in the form of a second-round draft pick. But the Timberwolves are reluctant to pay too high a price to land a coach that many believe will ultimately be fired anyway.
Both Joerger and the Timberwolves figured to take some time to digest the meetings before the next move is made, but it is looking more and more like a matter of when, not if, the two sides will come together.
The 40-year-old Joerger got to know Saunders as a young man trying to break into the coaching ranks when he was allowed to sit on several training camp practices for the Timberwolves, who were coached by Saunders from 1995-2005. He then followed a similar career path to Saunders, coaching in the minor leagues for years before breaking into the NBA as an assistant with the Grizzlies.
Joerger took over for the dismissed Lionel Hollins and impressed with his ability to adjust his schemes and philosophies to the talent on his roster, and do it on the fly. The Grizzlies started this season 10-15, prompting Joerger to ditch the more open offensive style he was trying to institute on a team that struggled to score in the halfcourt for the slower-paced, ''Grit `n' Grind'' that became the Grizzlies' hallmark under Hollins.
But a seven-game slugfest with the Thunder in the first round wasn't enough to convince Pera that the team was headed in the right direction, and the uncertainty surrounding his job, coupled with the prospects of returning home to coach under Saunders, hold great appeal for Joerger.
Saunders has always had an affinity for coaches who have had to grind their way to the top through the backwaters of minor league basketball and he is also intrigued by Joerger's enthusiasm for the job even given the uncertain status of star forward Kevin Love, who can opt out of his contract after next season.
Love's situation has given several higher profile candidates pause, but Joerger still fits the profile of an energetic coach who has had success as a head coach that Saunders is looking for to take over a team that has not made the playoffs since 2004.
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