After looking toward other candidates, the Minnesota Timberwolves have come back to Ryan Saunders as their next head coach.
After conducting a set of interviews, the Minnesota Timberwolves have hired a new head coach. According to multiple reports, Ryan Saunders is in negotiations finalizing a multi-year deal to have the interim tag removed from his title.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Saunders’ deal could be completed as soon as Monday and he is working to assemble a coaching staff.
Saunders finished this past season as Minnesota’s interim head coach after Tom Thibodeau was fired, and the team had a 17-25 record under him. Only 33 years old, the son of former Timberwolves’ coach Flip Saunders has 10 seasons of experience as an NBA assistant coach with Minnesota and Washington.
Saunders clearly brought a different temperament than Thibodeau, which on its own appeared to foster stronger relationships with players. That made it almost a foregone conclusion he would be elevated to head coach on a permanent basis, but it appears new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas was allowed to vet other candidates.
It will be interesting to see what Saunders can do with a fully healthy Timberwolves’ roster. Robert Covington (knee) did not play a game after Jan. 8, while Jeff Teague (knee/foot-17 games played), Derrick Rose (elbow-19 games played) and Tyus Jones (ankle-27 games played) also missed significant chunks of time after Saunders became interim head coach.
Rose and Jones may be gone this offseason, as an unrestricted and restricted free agent respectively. But Saunders literally never had all of Minnesota’s key players available over his 42-game audition for the head coaching job. Another lottery pick is coming in June (No. 11 overall) to further bolster the talent on the roster.
Time will tell if Saunders was the right choice. But if all things were otherwise equal in the eyes of management, being the coach who the players already know (and vouched for behind the scenes?) probably tipped the scales in his favor.