Minnesota Timberwolves: New coaching staff key to solid start

David Vanterpool of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
David Vanterpool of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ solid start has them in the Western Conference playoff picture and their new coaching staff deserves a lot of the credit.

While the Minnesota Timberwolves decided to name Ryan Saunders the permanent head coach after taking over as the interim following Tom Thibodeau’s firing last year, Saunders and new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas did decide to revamp the rest of the coaching staff.

The most prominent move on the coaching staff was hiring David Vanterpool as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Vanterpool had spent the last seven seasons working as an assistant under Terry Stotts in Portland where the Blazers consistently seemed to overachieve each year, especially on the defensive end. And Vanterpool was the mastermind behind their success on that end of the floor.

Before that, Vanterpool was the director of pro personnel in Oklahoma City from 2012-15 during a three-year stretch where the Thunder won 124 games and made an appearance in the Western Conference Finals.

Vanterpool also served as an assistant for the Canadian National Team in 2015 where Andrew Wiggins led the squad to a bronze medal in the FIBA Americas Championship with 15.1 points per game.

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Vanterpool’s expertise has helped the Wolves take a leap from 24th in defensive rating last season to 15th this year, and this team still has plenty of room to grow on that side of the ball as they continue to master his system.

Pablo Prigioni was another big name added to this coaching staff in the offseason, and he hit the ground running by leading the Wolves’ Summer League squad to the championship game in Las Vegas this July.

After a 16-year playing career in Europe where he won three Spanish King’s Cup titles, four Spanish Supercup titles, and a Spanish League championship while being named to two All-Euroleague teams, Prigioni made his NBA debut at 35 years old in 2012.

Prigioni played for the Knicks, Rockets, and Clippers during his four-year NBA career, and he earned a bronze medal along with a fourth-place finish on the Argentinian national team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Prigioni’s vast amount of playing experience has been a valuable asset to the Wolves’ coaching staff as player development is key to helping this young roster succeed.

Director of player development Kevin Hanson has joined the staff after eight seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, Kevin Burleson came to Minnesota after serving as a player development coach for three seasons in Houston, and Bryan Gates has returned to Minnesota after spending the last three years in Sacramento following a stint as a Wolves assistant in 2015-16.

Jeff Newton, Brian Randle, Jason Hervey, and Max Lefevre round out the staff as they all either bring solid coaching or playing experience to the table.

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Ryan Saunders knew he needed to surround himself with some of the league’s brightest minds if he was going to succeed in his first head coaching job, and he’s done exactly that with this impressive coaching staff.