Minnesota Timberwolves: Why sticking with Ryan Saunders is the best option

Head Coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Head Coach Ryan Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After serving as interim head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, Ryan Saunders could be the best option to be the head coach going forward.

Ryan Saunders has been on the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff since 2014, mainly as an assistant coach. After a 19-21 record to start the 2018-19 season, the Timberwolves parted ways with head coach Tom Thibodeau who had been with the team since 2016.

Upon the firing of Thibodeau, Saunders was immediately promoted to interim head coach. This would make him the youngest active head coach in the entire NBA. At just 33 years old, Saunders would look to become the next young head coach success story.

Unfortunately, in the 42 games to finish the season under Saunders, Minnesota would go 17-25. Although that is not an acceptable record for a team that won 47 games and made the playoffs the season before, Saunders did have several injury hurdles to overcome.

For his first partial season as an NBA head coach, Saunders did the best he could, given the situation. He was thrown into a difficult position and obviously did not have a full off-season to work with the players and implement his own personal strategies within the team.

In recent weeks, the Minnesota Timberwolves have started their search for the permeant head coach of the team going forward. While many believe Saunders has the best shot at taking over full-time next season, the team’s new President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas has been conducting interviews with several candidates.

The list of rumored candidates for the opening outside of Saunders include:

Although all of these coaches are well-qualified candidates for the head coach position, Ryan Saunders still seems to be the best fit for several reasons.

For starters, Saunders already has the approval of the team’s most important player, Karl Anthony-Towns. Keeping your superstars happy is becoming very difficult in the modern NBA and Towns has already publicly stated his support for Saunders going forward. It seems as if naming Saunders the head coach would please Towns.

Overall, continuity in this league is extremely important. While change can sometimes be a good thing, a lot of times it can make things more difficult. Although the team didn’t have the best record after Saunders took the team over, he does have 42 more games of experience coaching this team than any of the other candidates interviewing for the job.

From the players’ point of view, having a brand new coach and system can be frustrating. If Saunders were selected as the permanent head coach, the transition into his system would be much more simple.

Having a young, upcoming coach is also extremely attractive to players who are in their first few years in the league. Unless you’re among the ranks of San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, having a young coach who can relate to the players closer to their age can be extremely beneficial.

Saunders’ first ever NBA coaching role was as an assistant for the Washington Wizards. During his time there he was praised for his player development abilities, including with players like John Wall and Bradley Beal.

He earned a reputation for helping young players improve and reach their full potential. On a team like Minnesota with many young, promising players, Saunders could help ensure that every player becomes the best they can possibly be.

Overall, being a great head coach is in Ryan Saunders’ blood. He is the son of the late Flip Saunders, who was an NBA head coach for 20 years. In fact, Flip led the Timberwolves to their first ever playoff appearance in the 1996-97 followed their first ever winning season the next year.

Next. More on the head coaching search. dark

In the ten seasons Flip Saunders coached the Timberwolves, he led them to eight playoff appearances. Since 2005, in Flip’s last year as head coach, Minnesota has only had one playoff appearance. Could Ryan Saunders lead the team to consistent playoff berths once again, just as his father did? He seems to be the best fit for the job.