Ryan Saunders Returns Home, Gets To Work With His Dad In Minnesota

Ryan Saunders (far left) is getting a chance to reunite with his dad, Flip Saunders (far right), as he joins the Wolves as an assistant coach. Saunders' love for basketball began early, and his access to Flip's teams in the 1990s and 2000s here in Minnesota helped facilitate his passion for the game.
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by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Ryan Saunders vividly remembers listening to former Timberwolves veterans like Sam Mitchell and Kevin Garnett talk hoops in the Target Center training room when he was younger. Those moments, listening to two NBA standouts discuss strategy and preparation, are still engrained in Saunders’ head as he continues to develop his path as an NBA coach.

On Tuesday, the Wolves announced Saunders would be joining the Timberwolves as an assistant coach under his dad, Flip Saunders. He’s reuniting with an organization that once helped him develop a passion for the game that began so long ago. He'll be joining Mitchell, who is also an assistant coach, as well as Sidney Lowe and David Adelman on Flip's staff.

“I’ve always known,” Ryan Saunders said about wanting to become a coach. “I love the game of basketball. It might sound cliché, but I really do. And I’ve always known I wanted to stay in basketball, and this has been a good way for me to do that. And so I knew at a young age that I wanted to coach, and I knew I had a lot to offer as I moved, got older and older. And I just understand the game and being able to relate to people and things like that. So yeah, a lot of those experiences really did help.”

The Saunders family has always considered Minnesota home, even after Flip Saunders left the organization in 2005. When he returned last May to become the team’s President of Basketball Operations, he reiterated that. Ryan Saunders said the same thing on Tuesday. The former University of Minnesota basketball player grew up around the Wolves here in the Twin Cities, played for the Gophers and continued to have close ties to his home state even after spending time in Washington as part of the Wizards’ organization.

Now he’s back, and he has a chance to make an impact on this Wolves team that flirted with the postseason last year. In doing so, he gets a chance to work with his father—someone he’s admired professionally as well as personally throughout his life.

He said while he wants to build his own legacy, this was a great personal and professional opportunity to return home and continue working as an assistant in the league.

And he’ll be able to follow some of the coaching principles his dad always brought to the court over the years.

“A big thing, one of the things that I like to do is I want to work hard, contribute, win, but do it the right way,” Ryan Saunders said. “I really feel like my father’s done that. So I think that having a work ethic is something that really he showed me growing up. That really helped me and really got me to a point where I want to be at the moment. And you know, as I continue to move forward in my career, it’s something I’m always going to remember.”

He’ll be doing it in a building with which he’s awfully familiar. Target Center was home for 10 years while Flip Saunders led the Timberwolves from 1995 through 2005. Now, Flip and Ryan have a chance to work together in a very familiar spot with a team they know well.

“There have been a lot of people in the last couple days here that say they remember me about this high,” Saunders said, pointing to about waist height. “I told them I’m about this high now. I remember the great times. There were a lot of great eras—that playoff run back in [2003-04]. It was just a lot of great times, and I look forward to making a lot more memories.”