Ex-Wolves coach Mitchell: My firing could force Garnett into retirement

Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

Former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell still has a bitter taste on his tongue from his abrupt and unceremonious dismissal at the end of last season. According to Mitchell, he's not the only one.

Quadragenarian power forward Kevin Garnett, who has a year left on his contract with the Wolves, hasn't yet decided whether he'll return for a 22nd NBA season in 2016-17. Mitchell believes the way he was treated by the organization may ultimately preclude Garnett's return.

"Last time I talked to him, he hadn't made up his mind yet," Mitchell said Tuesday on Sirius XM NBA Radio. "The way last year ended, with the owner (Glen Taylor) at the very last minute ... and people don't understand this, we all felt pretty good about us - myself and (general manager) Milt Newton and the coaching staff - we felt pretty good about us coming back. We felt like we did a good enough job that we earned a year or two to try to see could we keep that thing rolling."

Instead, as soon as the season ended, Taylor moved to hire Tom Thibodeau as the team's new head coach and president of basketball operations, and replaced Newton as GM with Scott Layden.

"I just think KG was just so hurt by the way things happened," Mitchell said. "For people to send you messages as if you were gonna be back and your staff was gonna be back and we had everything going in the right direction, and to get a phone call two hours before your last game basically saying, 'I changed my mind and I'm going in a different direction,' it just kind of knocks it all for a loop."

Mitchell, like Garnett, spent the majority of his playing career with the Wolves. He served as a veteran mentor during Garnett's early years with the franchise, much like Garnett has to the Wolves' new crop of young talent the past couple seasons. Thibodeau is himself very familiar with Garnett, having served as a lead assistant on Garnett's Boston Celtics teams from 2007 to 2010. But Mitchell feels Garnett's sense of loyalty may tug him toward retirement, rather than another playing season.

"We've all recovered from it and moved on, but if you know Kevin, Kevin's very sensitive and he's very loyal," Mitchell said. "It was a lot of people in that organization that was let go, and the way it was done just left a bad taste on a lot of people's mouths, especially his. And, to be honest with you, I don't know how he's gonna deal with that, because Kevin takes that stuff personal, and it's gonna be interesting to see what he ultimately decides to do, and it's a shame that if he doesn't come back and play, that his last year in Minnesota ended the way it did."

Taylor and Thibodeau both told NBA.com's Steve Aschburner last month that they've spoken to Garnett in recent weeks, but haven't gotten a definitive answer about his status for next season.

Ex-Wolves coach Mitchell: My firing could force Garnett into retirement
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