The Minnesota Timberwolves have been in the NBA since 1989, and they come to town once a year, thanks to the league’s unbalanced schedule. So by my count, I’d say this Tuesday will mark the first time in 21 trips to The Palace that we’re going to pay any attention to any of the T-Wolves’ assistant coaches—ever.

That’s because Bill Laimbeer now sits on an NBA sideline again—this time in Armani.

Laimbeer abruptly quit as head coach of the WNBA’s now-defunct Detroit Shock last summer because, well, because Bill Laimbeer pretty much has done whatever he’s wanted, whenever he’s wanted.

He abruptly quit as a player, too, retiring in November 1993 because he lost his competitive fire on the court. He was 36 and fed up with the NBA. That was then.

Today, he’s 52 and is serving as an apprentice under T-Wolves head coach Kurt Rambis, positively smitten with the league once again.

“That’s my stated goal of why I got back into the NBA and the assistant coaching ranks,” Laimbeer recently told Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere. “To learn and prepare to be a head coach.”

Laimbeer made no bones about that when he quit the Shock, although he truthfully said that, at the time of his self-ziggy, he had no NBA coals on the fire. But the NBA was his unquestioned desired destination.

And he’ll continue his on-the-job training when the T-Wolves visit the Pistons Tuesday night.

The Timberwolves, like the Pistons, aren’t any good, either. They’re 13-40, 4-22 on the road. It’s a far cry from Laimbeer’s days as a player and as coach of the Shock, when winning was a constant.

There are still those around town who’d like to see Laimbeer end up with the Pistons—as a head coach, not an assistant. But when President Joe Dumars went on his bi-annual search for a new coach last summer, Laimbeer wasn’t seriously considered.

It was quite evident that Laimbeer wasn’t going to make the leap from the WNBA to the NBA as a head coach in one fell swoop, so he was all ears when Rambis, an old on-court rival with the Lakers, called.

Laimbeer (left) jumped at the chance to work for old on-court rival Rambis (right)

“I’m excited to add someone with Bill’s experience to the staff,” Rambis said when he made the mildly surprising hire in late-August. “We can’t wait to get with our players in training camp.”

Now, Rambis, Laimbeer et al probably can’t wait for the season to be over with.

Laimbeer’s stock as a blue chip coaching prospect has its skeptics, to be sure. Those types will tell you that he’s too bombastic, too sassy to work effectively with today’s NBA players. But those traits are the same ones that have the pro-Laimbeer people convinced he’d be a terrific NBA head coach, so there you have it.

Bill Laimbeer, as far as I’m concerned, has always been one of the most cerebral, attentive, sophisticated men to ever play in the NBA, though he rarely gets credit for it. Beyond the pouting and flopping and the whining to the officials has always lied a brilliant basketball mind, and a very astute businessman.

I have a hunch that if given the opportunity, Laimbeer will know when he needs to push and prod, and when he needs to just back off. Don’t forget that he likely learned a thing or two from Chuck Daly, and you can find dumber brains to pick than Daly’s, for sure.

Whether it happens in Minnesota or Detroit or Atlanta or Sacramento, Bill Laimbeer will be an NBA head coach. He’s never done things without a purpose, and he’s rarely been unsuccessful in his basketball life.

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