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Saunders Has Earned His Shot To Coach The Wolves

by Julian Andrews
Web Editorial Associate Follow

Ryan Saunders is the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

The Wolves held interviews for the position over the last week and Saunders distinguished himself, winning the right to become the youngest head coach in the NBA and the first major hire for new President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. Rosas conducted a thorough search but came to the conclusion that the best person for the Wolves coaching job was the man who had already earned the trust and appreciation of many people up and down the organization.

With Saunders and Rosas, the Wolves have a foundation they can be very excited about. Rosas wants to build a player-centric organization with a world-class culture and Saunders fits that mission perfectly.

During his time as an assistant coach and more recently as interim coach, Saunders quickly demonstrated how close he is with this group of players. They respect him immensely; they’ll go to battle for him and they trust him. When he was named interim coach, he sat down with every player individually to listen to their thoughts about the team and express his expectations for them. Not every coach does that, but Saunders’ commitment to listening to and developing relationships with his players will take him far.

The Wolves’ closeness and trust with Saunders was evident as soon as he got the interim job. 

“That’s what we’ve talked about is not only him having our back but us having his back and everyone coming together, playing for one another, trusting one another, believing in one another, doing it for one another,” Tyus Jones said after Saunders took over in January. “I think it’s going to be great. We’re going to support him and have his back and play extremely hard.”

Wolves franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns echoed Jones’ faith in Saunders. 

“He’s very capable of doing this job. We all have confidence in him, a lot of confidence. We have to be ready to follow him, he’s our new captain,” he said. 

As time went on, it became clear that the Wolves’ faith in Saunders wasn’t just talk. The Wolves banded together and grew closer as the season progressed. That was in large part due to Saunders’ leadership. 

Saunders and Rosas both emphasize culture. They see Minnesota as a place where the best people—from players, to coaches, to front office members—spend the best times of their career. The Wolves are leaning into that culture.

“You saw that early on when Ryan took over, each day he’s trying to build the culture the right way how he wants it, and guys are buying in more and more every day, so it’s been fun,” said Jones in March. “Night in and night out every day at practice we’re doing more team bonding things, it’s just little stuff you might take for granted but it ends up all adding up and really making a difference.”

It’s not just in the locker room that Saunders is a good fit for this team. He emphasizes pace and increased three-point shooting, two things that are very important to Rosas. Though Rosas carried out a full process and had full authority to make this hire, he found a like-minded partner in Saunders. The system Saunders runs aligns with the type of players Rosas wants to bring in and the way the current Wolves players want to play. That type of organizational alignment is extremely important.

Saunders has already gotten his feet wet as an NBA coach and he’ll only get better with experience. The Wolves are ready to grow to new heights and Saunders is the perfect coach to lead the way.

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