Q&A: Assistant Coach Joseph Blair

by Shahbaz Khan

Timberwolves.com recently spoke with Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Joseph Blair ahead of Summer League, which Blair will be an integral part of for the Wolves, heading coaching duties for the Las Vegas exhibitions.

Blair discussed expectations for the Summer League squad, areas of improvement for the roster, expectations for 2021-22, and more.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Timberwolves.com:
Coach, what have you been up to this offseason to date?

Blair:

“Just getting acclimated with the new position. A lot going on obviously this offseason with our players, so trying to work with them in the gym as much as possible. Have been working with the young guys and keeping them engaged, prepared, and constantly developing. Taking over the defensive role on the team, a lot of meetings going over terminologies, schemes, plans, and things we’re going to do.

I’ve also been blessed to be able to be part of the Timberwolves & Lynx Basketball Academy Camps and engage with the kids in the Twin Cities. And then, went down to Houston for Jarred Vanderbilt’s camp as well, so…(laughs) I guess you could say it’s been busy.”

Timberwolves.com:
What are the biggest areas of improvement and focus for the roster going into next season?

Blair:

“Well first, it’s all about staying lockstep with Coach Finch and then it’s a trickle-down effect. We all need to build upon the culture he’s provided for the team and be the best version of a team from the front office to the coaches to the player to the staff.”

Timberwolves.com:
What can we expect from the Summer League team?

Blair:

“With our returning players, like Jaylen Nowell and Jaden McDaniels, I want to get them as comfortable as possible and engaged on both sides of the ball. I’m going to try to put them in positions where they can possibly be uncomfortable now, so when the season comes around, if they’re put in those positions, they won’t be.

With the younger players around them, I want to put them in the best position to succeed and hopefully get a call up to a team. Just putting players in positions to succeed. That’s what it’s all about.”

Timberwolves.com:
As you take over the defensive side of the ball, what can fans expect to be different in philosophy and style of defending next season? More switching? Less?

Blair:

“I’m definitely known as someone who likes to switch a lot, so I’m going to try and trickle that in as much as [Coach] Finch can stomach it (laughs). As a coaching staff, we’re all going to challenge each other to bring the best out of our players, but I’ll tell you…

It’s all about listening and engaging your players. Player education is huge, and as you know, defense is all about effort. You can make the best schemes in the world, but if people don’t execute it with passion and effort, it’s going to look like crap. That’s on both offense and defense. So it’s going to come down to effort, execution, and education, and if we do that, you’ll see a lot of precision out of us.”

Timberwolves.com:
What would be considered tangible progress and realistic expectations for this team in 2021-22?

Blair:

“Anytime you talk about realistic expectations, I think you have to aim high. That said, I can confidently say this is a playoff team. We want to be a playoff team, and a perennial playoff team at that. Our goal has to be to play games past the regular season. That’s where we need to keep our mind and we need to keep our focus.”

Tickets for Friday's Summer League Jam Session, which is free of charge and open to the public, are available here.

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