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Wolves, Saunders agree to multi-year deal

Minnesota's interim coach in 2018-19 will be its coach going forward

Minnesota Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders is staying put in his role full time, the team announced on Monday.

The team and Saunders came to an agreement on a multi-year deal early Monday morning. Wolves GM Gersson Rosas had reportedly interviewed several candidates recently for Minnesota’s coaching job, but settled on keeping Saunders in that role.

In addition to Saunders’ deal, the Wolves also hired the Brooklyn Nets’ director of global scouting Gianluca Pascucci as its new assistant GM, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports. Pascucci had previously worked close with Rosas when both men were in Houston.

Saunders finished the season as Wolves coach after the team fired Tom Thibodeau following a 19-21 start, and Saunders had the support of both All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. Rosas was hired to fill the team president role, one which Thibodeau held and was vacant after he was fired.

The Wolves went only 17-25 under Saunders, but any evaluation of his strategic acumen would be incomplete and unfair considering the injury decimation of the roster. At any opportunity, though, Saunders and the players spoke highly of the improved team dynamic that emerged down the stretch. Subtracting intense personalities of Jimmy Butler and Thibodeau didn’t produce a better winning percentage, but the communication process was after what Towns referred to as “the situation” was clearly on the right track.

Saunders made a strong impression on Rosas and team management and has met with Rosas several times since his hiring, Wojnarowski reported previously. Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the discussions between Rosas and Saunders have been on a variety of on-court topics (style of play, player development, the use of an up-tempo offense) to off-court topics, too (communication, leadership and keys to success in Minnesota).

Upon his hiring, Rosas credited Thibodeau for leaving behind a competitive roster, a team led by Towns with plenty of young talent and unrealized potential. The greatest immediate challenge to improvement, beyond the competition in the Western Conference, will be the salary cap. Maximum contracts for Towns and enigmatic sidekick Andrew Wiggins have helped push the Timberwolves close to the luxury tax threshold.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.