Sam Mitchell (basketball)

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Sam Mitchell
Sam Mitchell (1705066) (cropped).jpg
Mitchell with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014
Memphis Tigers
PositionAssistant coach
LeagueAmerican Athletic Conference
Personal information
Born (1963-09-02) September 2, 1963 (age 55)
Columbus, Georgia
Listed height6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High schoolColumbus (Columbus, Georgia)
CollegeMercer (1981–1985)
NBA draft1985 / Round: 3 / Pick: 54th overall
Selected by the Houston Rockets
Playing career1985–2002
PositionSmall forward
Number42, 5
Coaching career2002–present
Career history
As player:
1985–1986Wisconsin Flyers
1986Tampa Bay Flash
1986–1987Rapid City Thrillers
19891992Minnesota Timberwolves
19921995Indiana Pacers
19952002Minnesota Timberwolves
As coach:
20022004Milwaukee Bucks (assistant)
20042009Toronto Raptors
20102012New Jersey Nets (assistant)
2014–2015Minnesota Timberwolves (assistant)
2015–2016Minnesota Timberwolves (interim)
2015–2018U.S. Virgin Islands
2018–presentMemphis (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
As Player:

As Coach:

Career NBA statistics
Points8,636 (8.7 ppg)
Rebounds3,711 (3.7 rpg)
Assists1,089 (1.1 apg)
Stats at

Samuel E. Mitchell Jr. (born September 2, 1963) is a former professional basketball player who is currently an assistant coach for the Memphis Tigers of the American Athletic Conference (AAC). He was the interim head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for one season. He was also the head coach for the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 2004 to 2008. Mitchell has also done analyst work for TSN and NBA TV as well as radio work for WHAL in Columbus and WZGC-FM "92.9 The Game" in Atlanta.[1] He also currently works as a talk show co-host/analyst on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

Professional career[edit]

Mitchell, a 6'6" (198 cm), 210 lb (95 kg) small forward, graduated from Columbus High School. Afterwards he played college basketball at Mercer University for four seasons (1981–85), and scored nearly 2,000 points, becoming the leading scorer in Bears history. He led the team to both the regular-season and postseason Trans-American Atlantic Conference championships in 1985. As a result, the team made the NCAA tournament that year. Then he was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 7th pick of the 3rd round (54th overall) in the 1985 NBA draft.

Mitchell did not commence play in the NBA after being drafted and until joining 1989 expansion team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, in their inaugural season. Prior to his NBA career, he spent three seasons (1985–88) in the Continental Basketball Association, playing for the Wisconsin Flyers and Rapid City Thrillers, and in the French Ligue Nationale de Basketball team of Montpellier (coached by Pierre Galle) for the end of the 1987–88 and the whole 1988–89 season. After that, Mitchell started his NBA career, first spending three seasons with the Timberwolves. During his playing days in Minneapolis, he scored a career-high 37 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on February 3, 1991. On September 8, 1992 he was traded along with point guard Pooh Richardson to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for small forward Chuck Person and point guard Micheal Williams. After spending three years with the Pacers, he returned to the Timberwolves for the rest of his career, before retiring in 2002. Mitchell ranks second in Wolves history in points, steals and minutes played, and is third in total rebounds.

Coaching career[edit]

Mitchell returned to the NBA almost immediately after his retirement as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks for two seasons until 2004. He then briefly became a part of the expansion Charlotte Bobcats as their top assistant coach, until moving on to the Toronto Raptors when he was named as the sixth head coach in Raptors history after incumbent Kevin O'Neill was fired.

Mitchell was named the coach of the month in January 2007 for his effort bringing the Toronto Raptors back to .500 and leading the Atlantic Division. On March 30, 2007, Mitchell got his 100th win as NBA coach when the Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center.[2]

Mitchell, who witnessed his team struggle with rebuilding in his first years as coach, also led the Toronto Raptors to their first division title in franchise history as the team won the Atlantic Division in the NBA's Eastern Conference in the 2006–07 season. On April 24, 2007, he was named 2006–07 NBA Coach of the Year.[3] On May 22, 2007 after leading the Raptors to their first playoffs appearance since 2002, and after much speculation, Mitchell was signed to a four-year contract with the Raptors.[4]

On November 25, 2007 Mitchell surpassed Lenny Wilkens for the most wins in team history. Mitchell was the longest reigning head coach of the Toronto Raptors.

On December 3, 2008, after leading the Raptors to a disappointing 8–9 start to the 2008–09 season, Mitchell was relieved of his duties as the team's head coach. Assistant coach Jay Triano took over the position of interim head coach of the Raptors, which later made him the first foreign-born player to coach a team in the NBA.[5] The firing was ridiculed by the TNT Overtime crew because the Raptors were only one game under .500 at the time of the firing. Chris Webber predicted that they would not be "as good under another coach."[6] In fact, the Raptors went 25–40 the rest of the season.

Mitchell was hired as an assistant coach by the New Jersey Nets on July 19, 2010. On December 6, 2011, Nets hired P.J. Carlesimo and Mario Elie as new assistant coaches and Mitchell was reassigned to a scouting position.

On 2012, Sam Mitchell named head coach of USA select to 2012 William Jones Cup in Taiwan and his team finished bronze medal.

On June 16, 2014, Mitchell was hired as an assistant coach by the Minnesota Timberwolves.[7]

On September 11, 2015, Mitchell became the Timberwolves' interim head coach after Flip Saunders had to take a leave of absence to receive treatment after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.[8] On October 25, 2015, Saunders died at age 60. For the rest of the season, Mitchell became the official head coach, although he would still be treated as an interim coach. During his sole season coaching the Timberwolves, he would coach them to the fifth-worst record in the league with a 29–53 record.

On April 13, 2016, Mitchell was relieved of his interim head coaching duties as the coach of the Timberwolves after the last game of the season, allowing them to look for a permanent coach.[9] He would then be replaced by former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

On June 13, 2018, Mitchell was hired by the University of Memphis as assistant coach under Penny Hardaway.[10]

Head coaching record[edit]

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Toronto 2004–05 82 33 49 .402 4th in Atlantic Missed Playoffs
Toronto 2005–06 82 27 55 .329 4th in Atlantic Missed Playoffs
Toronto 2006–07 82 47 35 .573 1st in Atlantic 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round
Toronto 2007–08 82 41 41 .500 2nd in Atlantic 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
Toronto 2008–09 17 8 9 .471 (fired)
Minnesota 2015–16 82 29 53 .354 5th in Northwest Missed Playoffs
Career 427 185 242 .433 11 3 8 .273

Personal life[edit]

Mitchell lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Anita and their four daughters.[11]


  1. ^ WZGC Bio Archived 2013-01-22 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Feschuck, Dave, "Mitchell turns millstone into personal milestone",, April 1, 2007, accessed April 1, 2007.
  3. ^ "Sam Mitchell Named 2006-07 Coach of the Year",, April 24, 2007, accessed April 24, 2007.
  4. ^ Raptors Award Mitchell with New Contract,, May 21, 2007, accessed May 23, 2007.
  5. ^ Mitchell Fired, The Fan 590, December 3, 2008, accessed December 3, 2008.
  6. ^ Dismissal of Sam Mitchell, TNT Overtime crew, Accessed March 11, 2009.
  7. ^ "Wolves Name Sam Mitchell Assistant Coach". June 16, 2014. Retrieved September 11, 2015.
  8. ^ "Sam Mitchell to Serve as Timberwolves Interim Head Coach". September 11, 2015. Retrieved September 11, 2015.
  9. ^ "Minnesota Timberwolves Launch Search for Head Coach and Head of Basketball Operations". April 13, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  10. ^ "Former NBA coach Sam Mitchell joins Memphis Tigers staff". June 13, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  11. ^ Atlanta, Obama and Mitchell, Toronto Sun, December 4, 2008, accessed December 4, 2008.

External links[edit]