Is current Minnesota Timberwolves interim head coach Ryan Saunders the coach of the future for the franchise? Let’s look at what he’s done so far in that role.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a rocky season thus far, sitting at 25-26 and are 2.5 out of the No. 8 spot in West.
But even with all the drama this season, the Wolves still have plenty of time to make a playoff push. Injuries to the roster haven’t helped the team as they are desperate for several players — especially Robert Covington and Derrick Rose — to make their returns. Interim head coach Ryan Saunders has had the cards stacked against him to this point, but he does have this young roster playing with effort every night.
The question that ownership and the front office will have to ask themselves is if Ryan Saunders is the answer as head coach of the Timberwolves for the foreseeable future.
On Jan. 6, Saunders answered the call from owner Glen Taylor offering him the interim head coach position. Saunders, as if fated to do so, followed his late father’s footsteps and became the Timberwolves new interim head coach. Minnesota made Saunders the youngest head coach in the NBA and asked him to turn this unbalanced roster into a playoff team. That is difficult to ask of a first-time head coach, especially in the Western Conference, and especially digging out of the hole that they were already in.
In the 11 games since taking over for Tom Thibodeau, Saunders’ Timberwolves are sitting at 6-5 and playing with high energy every night as a player’s coach who has connected with this young roster.
Andrew Wiggins, for instance, has really come out of his shell since Saunders took over. Showing flashes of his true potential, Wiggins has averaged 20.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in the 11 games since the Saunders takeover, and has been especially aggressive of late.
Those are the type of numbers that a team expects to see from its max player, and Wiggins is proving just that since Saunders took over. Having a coach who believes in you as a player can do wonders.
Here’s Saunders, talking to Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press about Wiggins:
"“Just being around him, you learn what can work for certain guys,” Saunders said. “No two people are the same in terms of how you might want to get something out of them when it comes to players. You have to handle people differently. I have some things with Andrew that we can talk about, things that I think work well, and things I think might not work as well.”"
Ryan Saunders is the type of coach who is getting a player to reach his full potential and wants to play as hard as possible every night. When you get a player to do that when he is known for lack of effort, the front office has to consider signing Saunders to a permanent contract as the head coach of the future.
Just take a look at Wiggins’ response to his recent surge in rebounding numbers.
"“I’m just trying to do more, because I feel like I’ve kind of been streaky this year with everything I’ve done.” Wiggins said. “I’m just trying to stay more consistent and grab rebounds, do whatever I can to help the team.”"
The Timberwolves might not make the playoffs this season, but Saunders at least has this team playing competitive basketball every night.
Even with all the injuries on the roster and the Wolves looking for almost anyone to plug in at point guard, Saunders still has the team winning and believing they make the playoffs. You can’t really ask much more from a head coach.