Sam Mitchell (basketball)

Sam Mitchell

Mitchell in 2006
Personal information
Born (1963-09-02) September 2, 1963
Columbus, Georgia
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight 210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High school Columbus (Columbus, Georgia)
College Mercer (1981–1985)
NBA draft 1985 / Round: 3 / Pick: 54th overall
Selected by the Houston Rockets
Playing career 1985–2002
Position Small forward
Number 42, 5
Coaching career 2002–present
Career history
As player:
1985–1986 Wisconsin Flyers (CBA)
1986 Tampa Bay Flash (USBL)
1986–1987 Rapid City Thrillers (CBA)
1987–1989 Montpellier (France)
19891992 Minnesota Timberwolves
19921995 Indiana Pacers
19952002 Minnesota Timberwolves
As coach:
20022004 Milwaukee Bucks (assistant)
20042008 Toronto Raptors
20102011 New Jersey Nets (assistant)
2014–2015 Minnesota Timberwolves (assistant)
2015–2016 Minnesota Timberwolves (interim)
2016–present U.S. Virgin Islands
Career highlights and awards

As player

As coach

Career NBA statistics
Points 8,636 (8.7 ppg)
Rebounds 3,711 (3.7 rpg)
Assists 1,089 (1.1 apg)
Stats at

Samuel E. Mitchell, Jr. (born September 2, 1963) is a former professional basketball player and coach who is currently head coach of the U.S. Virgin Islands national basketball team. He was most recently the interim head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association (NBA). 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-AM in Columbus and WZGC-FM "92.9 The Game" in Atlanta.[1]

Professional career

Mitchell, a 6'6" (198 cm), 210 lb (95 kg) small forward, graduated from Columbus High School. Afterwards he played college basketball at the Mercer University for four seasons (1981–85), and scored nearly 2,000 points, becoming the leading scorer in Bears history. Mercer University is the oldest privately owned university in the State of Georgia with its main campus in Macon, Georgia, United States. 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

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 headcoach 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 full-time coach.[9] He would then be replaced by former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Head coaching record

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 WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
Toronto 2004–05 823349.4024th in Atlantic Missed Playoffs
Toronto 2005–06 822755.3294th in Atlantic Missed Playoffs
Toronto 2006–07 824735.5731st in Atlantic624.333 Lost in First Round
Toronto 2007–08 824141.5002nd in Atlantic514.200 Lost in First Round
Toronto 2008–09 1789.471(fired)
Minnesota 2015–16 822953.3545th in Northwest Missed Playoffs
Career 427185242.433 1138.273

Personal life

Mitchell lives in both Edina, Minnesota and Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and four daughters.[10]


  1. WZGC Bio
  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. Atlanta, Obama and Mitchell, Toronto Sun, December 4, 2008, accessed December 4, 2008.
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