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Report: Timberwolves to keep GM Layden, coach Sauders

After a turbulent season that saw Minnesota return to the lottery, the Timberwolves are reportedly banking on front office stability translating to on-court success.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Minnesota is finalizing plans to keep general manager Scott Layden and coach Ryan Saunders in their respective roles for the long term. Here’s more from Wojnarowski on what the Wolves are thinking next:

Saunders, 32, is expected to get a multiyear deal as coach, sources said.

A formal announcement could come this week, sources said.

Layden successfully sold himself independently of his previous superior, Tom Thibodeau, sources said. Minnesota had been surveying the marketplace for possible front office executives, but never made contact, league sources said.

However, there may be conflicting reports about the future of Layden and Saunders as Chris Pine of the Star Tribune reports nothing has been decided about the fates of Saunders and Layden.

Team owner Glen Taylor issued a statement Wednesday that said the team has begun its search for a new president of basketball operations. That position has been vacant since Tom Thibodeau was fired earlier in the season. The team said no timetable has been set for the search and no further updates will be provided until the search is over.

“In the absence of Tom, I want to thank all who picked up his responsibilities this past year. This includes Interim Head Coach Ryan Saunders, General Manager Scott Layden and our entire basketball staff for their efforts leading our team through the 2018-19 season,” Taylor said in the statement. “They worked through a season with many injuries requiring many challenges in our player lineup. We are incredibly grateful to them for all of their hard work and commitment to the franchise.”

“The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves continues to be very bright. It’s more important than ever that we find a leader who can build a successful team in today’s fast-paced NBA. We have the cornerstones of a very talented team and need to assemble the final pieces that will elevate us into a playoff team and one that can compete for championships.”

Pine reports that the feeling around the Wolves is that Saunders is in good standing with Taylor to get the coaching job full-time. Hiring a new president could affect that, though. Overall, it looks solid for Saunders to remain in his role as he and Taylor have a good relationship and Saunders has publicly expressed a desire to remain in his post.

As for Layden, that the future looks a little more uncertain for him. Here’s more from Pine:

Sources said the future was more uncertain for Layden, who is making $2 million each of the next two years. If Taylor and the new president want to retain Saunders as coach, it could complicate a potential GM search since the GM wouldn’t have control (at least at first) over who would be head coach.

Whoever is president and GM next season would inherit a roster that has little flexibility at the top, given the max deals to Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Bayless and Tolliver will all hit free agency. Tyus Jones will be a restricted free agent and would like to return. Jeff Teague has a player option for $19 million next season, but the Wolves are expecting Teague to opt-in given he has had an injury-riddled season and his value is low, a source said.

A former general manager of the Knicks, Layden is concluding his third full season as the Timberwolves GM. That time has included both the acquisition and departure of Jimmy Butler via trade, as well as maximum contract extensions for former No. 1 overall picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

The 32-year-old Saunders, a long-time NBA assistant coach and son of the late Flip Saunders, a longtime Timberwolves front office executive and coach, became the youngest coach in the league upon taking over for Thibodeau earlier this season. Minnesota has gone 17-23 since, with Towns averaging 26.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 blocks in that span.

A subsequent report by Jon Krawcynski of The Athletic seemed to indicate a president would be hired prior to any announcement.