By Daniel Paiz
When a team is one game under .500, has early season drama ending with trading away a key contributor, and then notch a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-117 in a close one Tuesday (Jan.8th) night on the road, who else could take things in stride like that?
Ryan Saunders might just be getting started, but perhaps this is the perfect time for Minnesota to have a Saunders back in charge. With the firing of former head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves are at a head coaching crossroads, and the spirit of Flip Saunders might just be making a second appearance when it comes to his son Ryan.
Rumors have swirled around Fred Hoiberg, Monty Williams, Chauncey Billups and a whole big list of other potential coaching candidates after Thibodeau’s dismissal. In addition to that list, interim General Manager Scott Layden may or may not be the long-term solution Minnesota chooses to stick around either. Oh, how Flip would not be too happy with how things have turned out.
However, one would think separating the GM and head coaching jobs into two different roles would be the main lesson for Minnesota to take away from this experience. Perhaps Flip would be on board with that idea? It’s certainly an important lesson for the franchise to learn from this situation. However if nothing else is learned, than the the real lesson should be that the time has come to test out just what Ryan Saunders can do.
Saunders, son of former head coach Flip Saunders (who passed away in 2015 after battling cancer), has been groomed for this gig. He’s learned basketball, he’s learned how the league works, and he’s done so with this very franchise. He’s also learned how his dad dealt with success and failure in Minnesota. Plus, he witnessed firsthand how you coach and bring together big personalities (Kevin Garnett didn’t listen to just anyone, and imagine juggling Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell at the same time).
Flip Saunders endured the joy and pain of eight first-round postseason exits, followed by a hard-fought trip to the Western Conference Finals, making an appearance against the Shaq & Kobe-led Lakers (2004 was the definition of success and failure for Minnesota). This franchise would love to get back to consistent postseason appearances. So what better way to see if lightning strikes twice than the antenna of coaching that the Saunders have brought to the Twin Cities.
What’s really important to encourage fans and onlookers alike is that Ryan Saunders is trusted by both the players and management. Owner Glen Taylor has put his faith in this coaching product of the franchise, and so far it’s paying off. 1-0. Here’s to seeing if Ryan Saunders brings some Flip magic back to the Wolves.