It has been an extended period since we last provided job-security rankings for those who coach or manage the Timberwolves, Twins, Vikings and Wild. Much has changed in that time — including some of the individuals who run the teams — so as the New Year approaches who is in trouble and who isn’t worrying?
Here’s the new rankings from most to least secure:
Rocco Baldelli, Twins: No worries
There is a benefit to being 0-0 and never having managed a game. Paul Molitor’s replacement will have plenty of time to get things turned around and won’t be under any immediate pressure. In other words, nothing to see here. At least not at this point.
Mike Zimmer, Vikings: No immediate concerns
Coming off a 13-3 season and a run to the NFC title game, the Vikings opened this season with big expectations after signing free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $98 million. Thus far, the Vikings have fallen short.
Minnesota is 7-6-1 entering their final two regular-season games and hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. There was some thought that Zimmer’s job might be in jeopardy — although not from this corner — but owner Zygi Wilf told reporters Sunday after the Vikings beat Miami that Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman were in no jeopardy of being jettisoned.
Zimmer certainly has some faults, including his inability to keep offensive coordinators around, but the 62-year-old is an outstanding defensive coach and brings far more positives than negatives to the job. It will help Zimmer in a big way if interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who replaced the fired John DeFilippo after a loss in Seattle two weeks ago, proves to be the permanent solution at the job.
Zimmer looked like a smarter coach when Pat Shurmur did such a great job running the Vikings’ offense in 2017 before he was named head coach of the New York Giants. Can Stefanski become Shurmur 2.0?
The Vikings are likely headed to the playoffs for the third time in five seasons. A quick ouster from the playoffs, or missing the postseason, will make Zimmer’s seat warmer heading into 2019 but that’s about it.
Bruce Boudreau, Wild: Victim of circumstances?
This is a tough one because Boudreau is a very good coach who has consistently gotten his teams to the playoffs.
Now in his third season in Minnesota, Boudreau was brought in by former general manager Chuck Fletcher in May 2016 with the expectation that he could take the Wild on the type of playoff run that former coach Mike Yeo couldn’t. That hasn’t proven to be the case — the Wild were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of Boudreau’s first two seasons — and he is now working for a new boss.
Paul Fenton is in his first year as the Wild’s general manager and he has spent the season observing the franchise. That includes his head coach. The Wild are currently sitting three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and have lost 10 of their past 16 games.
It was interesting that during the offseason Fenton elected not to retain assistant coach John Anderson, one of Boudreau’s best friends, and instead hired Dean Evason. Evason had been coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, who are the AHL affiliate of the Predators, and Fenton was GM of that team during his time in Nashville’s front office.
While the Wild’s slump certainly can’t be pinned solely on Boudreau, one has to figure that at some point Fenton is going to want to put his mark on this organization. That means making trades and potentially bringing in his own coach.
That might not be fair but it’s the nature of the business.
Tom Thibodeau, Wolves: Going, going …
Things have settled down since the Jimmy Butler debacle ended with the All-Star being traded to Philadelphia in November, but that doesn’t mean the Wolves’ president of basketball operations and head coach has saved his job.
The feeling is that in order for that to happen, Thibodeau isn’t going to just have to guide the Wolves to a second consecutive playoff appearance but also likely win a round. That seems like an extreme long shot for a team that fell to 14-17 after blowing a 14-point lead Wednesday night in a loss to Detroit at Target Center.
The Wolves are 2.5 games out of a postseason spot in the Western Conference but are behind five other non-playoff teams. Thibodeau appears to have gotten a nice return for Butler in Robert Covington and Dario Saric but the situation was handled so poorly before the trade was made that it went a long way toward sabotaging the season.
The Wolves were 4-9 with Butler on the roster — remember, he was picking and choosing the games in which he would play — and are 10-8 since the deal.
The reality is the Wolves likely aren’t going to be a playoff team and owner Glen Taylor will be looking for a new basketball boss and head coach this offseason.