Minnesota Timberwolves: Coaching hire will make or break team’s future

DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Head Coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Head Coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

This isn’t the first time that the Minnesota Timberwolves head into an offseason with a question mark at the head coaching spot. But this time, the hire will make or break the team’s future.

How’s this for a declarative statement: all head coaching hires are important.

Controversial, I know. But consider just how vital the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ upcoming decision will be to the course of the franchise.

Karl-Anthony Towns is still only 23 years old and will begin playing on his max contract next season. Andrew Wiggins is still only 24 years old and is beginning Year Two of his massive deal. Dario Saric was 50 percent of the return for All-Star Jimmy Butler and will be playing for his own extension as he nears his prime years.

Of course, it all starts with the front office hire, as the Timberwolves are reportedly choosing from four finalists. While owner Glen Taylor and CEO Ethan Casson’s preference is to retain interim head coach Ryan Saunders and general manager Scott Layden, it’s presumed that the Wolves will leave the final decisions on both roles to the new president of basketball operations.

It’s important to note that both Towns and Wiggins both appear to truly enjoy playing for Saunders. They’ve each endorsed their interim coach publicly, although any player asked about their coach would surely be diplomatic.

Wiggins didn’t necessarily play much better after Saunders took the reigns in early January, but his line does suggest an increase in aggressiveness. Post Jan. 6, Wiggins averaged 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. With Thibodeau on the bench this season, Wiggins averaged 17.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per contest.

His shot attempts increased from 15.7 to 17.4 per game and he converted at a marginally better rate as well.

The most stark difference is the increase in rebounding, as that’s almost directly tied to giving more effort and being engaged. It’s an issue that has battled Wiggins throughout his still-young career, and the possibility that Saunders can bring just a little bit more out of Wiggins must be considered as the Wolves make their final decision.

There is, of course, the possibility that comfort could breed complacency. But going the opposite route with a red-faced, tough-love coach in Tom Thibodeau didn’t work as hoped, so why not try the positive, encouraging Saunders?

At any rate, this is an exceedingly important decision. That said, Taylor and Casson must be careful to not allow they’re reported bias towards Layden and Saunders to affect their front office decision. For instance, candidate like Chauncey Billups and Calvin Booth, who both have familiarity with the organization and Saunders himself may be more inclined to leave things as-is, whereas true outside candidates like Gersson Rosas and Trajon Langdon may not feel as compelled to loyalty.

We should have a solid read on the front office choice soon, and not long after that, we’ll find out about the new and most important coaching hire in franchise history.

Next. Comparing Wolves' future to 76ers'. dark

No pressure, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Casson. No pressure.