Sam Mitchell (basketball)

American basketball player and coach

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Sam Mitchell
Sam Mitchell (1705066) (cropped).jpg
Mitchell with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014
Personal information
Born (1963-09-02) September 2, 1963 (age 57)
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: 2 / 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)
20042008Toronto Raptors
20102012New Jersey Nets (assistant)
2014–2015Minnesota Timberwolves (assistant)
2015–2016Minnesota Timberwolves (interim)
2018–2019Memphis (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 Edit this at Wikidata at
Stats at

Samuel E. Mitchell Jr. (born September 2, 1963) is an American former professional basketball player and coach. Playing at small forward, Mitchell's 18-year professional basketball career spanned three decades, and was most notable for his ten seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA), whom he also coached as an interim for the 2015-16 season. Mitchell coached for the Toronto Raptors 2004 to 2008 as well, winning Coach of the Year Award in 2007.

Mitchell has since worked as an analyst for TSN, NBA TV, and works as a talk show co-host/analyst on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

Early years

Mitchell graduated from Columbus High School in 1981. He spent the next four years playing college basketball at Mercer University (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. Averaging 25 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a senior, Mitchell led the Bears to just their second NCAA tournament in team history in 1985; they would not return for nearly 30 years, until the 2014 tournament.

Mitchell had enlisted in the Army during his junior year, and at the conclusion of the 1985 NCAA tournament he went to boot camp at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He left one month later when he was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 7th pick of the 3rd round (54th overall) in the 1985 NBA draft. However he was cut during final cuts and joined the Wisconsin Flyers of the Continental Basketball Association.

Unhappy in the CBA, Mitchell quit the team midway through the season to return home to Georgia, where a former professor hired him a Special Education teacher for the remainder of the school year. With his summer off, he tried out for the U.S. Basketball League, and joined the Tampa Bay Flash, who he helped lead to the league title. He rejoined the Rockets for training camp afterwards, but was once again cut and joined the CBA, splitting the season between the Wisconsin Flyers and Rapid City Thrillers. He then joined the French LNB Pro A team of Montpellier Basket (coached by Pierre Galle) for the end of the 1987–88 and the whole 1988–89 season.

Success overseas led to a renewed interest from the NBA, and Mitchell earned a contract with the newly formed Minnesota Timberwolves. He spent three years in Minnesota, before being traded to the Indiana Pacers. While having a smaller role with the Pacers than he did with the Timberwolves, Mitchell did help Indiana reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 1994-95. Following that season, he returned to the Minnesota. Kevin Garnett was drafted by the Timberwolves out of high school that year, and Mitchell has been credited with helping Garnett's development. Mitchell retired from the league following the 2001-02 season.

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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."[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

After one year as one of Memphis' assistant coaches, Sam Mitchell is no longer with the program.

Head coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs 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

Mitchell lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Dawn Session-Mitchell [10]


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

External links

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