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Ryan Saunders Excited To Again Be Back In Minnesota

Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Assistant

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Ryan Saunders has always seen Minnesota as his home — he grew up in the Wayzata area and graduated from the University of Minnesota.

Still, for the most of his professional life, he's resided in Washington D.C.

So when the opportunity to continue his coaching career with the Wolves arose, Saunders jumped at the chance to move back to Minnesota.

"I really enjoyed my time in Washington. They have a great thing going there," said Saunders, who served as an assistant with the Washington Wizards for the last five years. "This was just a great opportunity for me. I just really think this team has a lot of promise and a lot of good things going for it."

The Wolves introduced Saunders to members of the media Tuesday afternoon at Target Center. He fielded questions for about 10 minutes and his excitement was evident during the introduction.

Saunders, of course, is the son of Flip Saunders — head coach and President of Basketball Operations for the Wolves.

It's unclear what the younger Saunders exact role will consist of with the team, but he does have a strong background in player development

Wolves' general manager Milt Newton, who worked with Saunders while with the Wizards, credited him with the development of rising stars John Wall and Bradley Beal.

He will likely be called upon to do the same thing with Minnesota as the roster hosts a cluster of young talent with untapped potential.  

"I think being close to these players in age helps so that I can relate to them," Saunders said. "I want to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Those are kind of my main goals moving forward as I try to help with player development."

Saunders is also well-versed in statistical analytics — yet another skill that could prove useful during his tenure as an assistant with the Wolves — and is actually the co-founder of an in-game analytical program, Gametime Concepts, which focuses on in-game analysis and statistical probabilities.

"I don't know if I'd consider myself an advanced stat guy," he said, "but I'd say a strength that I have is I'm able to put numbers in [a way] so basketball minds can use them."

Saunders said he feels like sports are moving in the direction of statistical analytics.

"It always helps to have evidence and numbers don’t lie," he said, referencing an anecdote about John Wall from last season. "I'd say, John. This is where you’re getting your turnovers — typically it’s in transition.' And actually during games he’d let me know, ' Yea. You’re right. I’ve got to slow down a little bit every once in a while.' So numbers do help. It gives evidence."

It's clear Saunders provides a new-age perspective that could help the Wolves next season.

He said his ultimate goal is to one day become a head coach in the NBA, but said, for now, Saunders is just happy to be back in Minnesota.

"Minnesota is home ... [so] it's good to be back home and be around friends and family," Saunders said. "It's also good to really start getting to work. I want to help this team improve."

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