Ryan Saunders has been at the helm of the Minnesota Timberwolves since Tom Thibodeau was relieved of his duties mid-season. How has he fared thus far?
With the Minnesota Timberwolves not quite out of the playoff hunt yet but not exactly taking a leap toward them, either, has Ryan Saunders proven himself worthy of retaining the position for next season and beyond?
A quick refresher: his position as interim head coach is the first head-coaching position of Ryan Saunders’ young career. Currently the youngest head coach in the NBA at just 32 years old, Saunders was formerly an assistant coach with Washington before joining the Wolves in the same role in 2014.
Since Saunders took over, the Timberwolves have managed a 10-13 record, which has essentially kept them right on pace with their pre-Saunders mark. A slew of injuries has hampered Saunders’ squad for much of the last couple of months, and the Wolves have had both some admirable wins and blowout losses throughout his tenure.
It’s important to note that Saunders is essentially stuck running a system initiated by Thibodeau as a major in-season shakeup could essentially bring the whole team crumbling to the ground. While the All-Star break would’ve given the team a chance to implement new ideas, to me the remainder of this season is still essentially Saunders in control of Thibodeau’s team.
Until Saunders gets the chance to have control of the team over an extended break, such as training camp and the preseason, he won’t have a real opportunity to implement his style of basketball without potentially crumbling the team’s foundations.
Whether or not he gets the chance to lead the team through the offseason and next preseason will likely come down to how well he can slowly introduce his own methods to the team throughout the remainder of this season.
While the Timberwolves’ record isn’t quite what some expected for this point of the season, it’s pretty much on track with where Thibodeau was leading the team. While both had to manage a number of injuries with the team, it’s arguably been harder for Saunders, who was left without a number of role-players early in his tenure.
The general feeling around the team seems to have improved since Thibodeau exited, and the team celebrated their first win under Saunders in a way that would have you think they were happy to have him in charge.
Although we’re likely still a way out from hearing just what will become of Saunders and the Timberwolves’ head coach position come end of season, owner Glen Taylor did recently state he think Saunders has a good chance to become the full time coach. Obviously, we’ll all be watching how Saunders can lead the team in the coming games once the roster is returned to full health.
Personally, I think Saunders has managed to do a decent job of leading the team under difficult circumstances. Saunders will have a chance to prove his ability to both Taylor and the Wolves’ fanbase when he has the full roster at this hands, hopefully for the remainder of the season.
Saunders’ future is up in the air at this point, but thankfully it looks as though he’ll have a healthy team to coach for the remainder of the season.