Flip Saunders on coaching Timberwolves: ‘I don’t really see that scenario’
Rick Adelman confirmed the long-held belief that he was hanging it up after this season by announcing his retirement earlier this week. Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders now will have his first opportunity to hire his own coach. Might he hire himself?
Saunders, who was rumored to be a finalist for the head coach job with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, where he once played, before taking the job as a Wolves executive, is still believed to have coaching blood still coursing through his veins and might be eager to start drawing up plays and X’s and O’s on a whiteboard should the opportunity present itself .. which it just did.
At the press conference announcing Adelman’s retirement, Saunders provided a non-answer when asked whether he’d be interested in taking over as head coach and whether or not he could handle both jobs.
“I’m not going to answer that,” Saunders said, via the Star Tribune. “You never know. Ideally right now we’re going to do a search. The search isn’t just coming to talk to me. We’ll sit down and put together a list, see the interest those people have and we’ll make decisions based on that.”
Saunders, the most successful coach in Wolves history, leading the team to the playoffs eight times during 10-year tenure, reaching the Western Conference Finals once, would not only have two jobs with the organization should he decide to install himself as head coach, he’s also part-owner of the team, holding a minority stake in the Glenn Taylor-owned operation.
Taylor has repeatedly said that he does not want Saunders coaching the team, saying he hired Saunders to run the operation and not be bogged down with the day-to-day rigors of coaching and instead focusing on the big picture.
Saunders, appearing on the “Mike & Mike” radio show on Wednesday, seemed to start closing the door — albeit not entirely — on any speculation that he’s the next Wolves coach.
“I don’t really see that scenario,” Saunders said, echoing the sentiment that wearing two hats would be too time-consuming. “I know it’s been brought up a lot, and you never say never, but we have a lot of things going on here,” Saunders continued. “I’ve got a lot on my plate and that’s enough right now to deal with.”
Besides Saunders, prospective hires include Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo, whom Saunders shares a good friendship and Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan, who once flirted with the Orlando Magic job before getting cold feet.
The biggest issue (among many) facing a prospective new coach — as well as the Wolves organization — is the tenuous nature of Kevin Love’s future with the club. While Love mostly has said all the right things since his pointed criticism of the team during an interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski a few years ago, but he can exercise his opt-out clause following the 2014-15 NBA season. Who the Wolves pick to be the coach, whether it be Saunders, Izzo, Donovan, or veteran NBA coaches like George Karl, Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Van Gundy, who are all available, better be able to convince Love that the Wolves have a future worth sticking around for.
Saunders did say, however, that Love’s input on the coaching hire will be minimal at best, as allowing a player to contribute to roster and coaching decisions is unfair to the the player as well as the team.
“I had (Kevin Garnett) for 10 years,” Saunders said. “If I took the players KG wanted all the time, the roster would have looked a lot different. I believe what you do is talk characteristics, but you don’t put a player, any player no matter who he is, in that light where he’s making that decision. It’s not fair to him. It’s not fair to the person you bring in. I wouldn’t do that.”
Here’s the thing. If Love says he wants Flip as his coach and no other — the two have bonded well during Saunders’ first year on the job — you better believe that Saunders will be courtside to start next season, despite the owner’s reservations.