It came as no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention to the Timberwolves’ coaching search that Flip Saunders was named head coach. Ever since Saunders took the front office job it almost felt inevitable that he would take the reins at some point given the uncertainty over Rick Adelman’s future.
Naming himself as coach is not a move intended to keep Kevin Love in Minnesota.There was no move that could have been made to keep Love a Timberwolf in the coming years. Too much (or not enough, depending on how you look at it) has happened and too much faith has been lost by Love in the Timberwolves for him to consider staying at this point.
However, this move still feels like it has a lot to do with Love and the consequently cloudy future of the team that has made it difficult to land a longterm coach this offseason. Rejection after rejection came, and it became clear that this was a risky job for any candidate to accept and the team may need to find a shortterm solution.
Would you take a job not knowing which direction the company is headed, especially when there are other job openings available? I know that I wouldn’t. Same thing for an up and coming head coaching candidate. There’s no way of knowing who they would be coaching and if he would fit the personnel of any players received in return for Love. While they do have pieces like Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng in place at the moment, that could all change should they decide on a full-rebuild.
Enter Flip Saunders.
With Saunders in place, this has the feel of a shortterm stop-gap until the team’s situation stabilizes since he plans to have coaches on his staff (Such as Sam Mitchell and likely others) who could takeover down the road. Or allow the team to go in another direction should a better opportunity present itself. This is a very low risk and safe move for the team since they won’t be on the hook for paying another coach, allowing them some financial flexibility in case that better opportunity eventually presents itself. As an added shortterm benefit, this means that the team will have a coach in place for the draft and is a sign they’ve learned from the past with the Kurt Rambis hire.
This way, the team will be able to avoid rushing the hire and landing an ill-fit for the position and setting the team back further. Give Saunders and general manager Milt Newton a year or two to assess what they have post-Love and then figure out where to go from there. From there, they can work on hiring a coach that suits the roster. Similarly, prospective candidates will have a better idea of what the Timberwolves job entails and why this is the place for them.
No, Saunders doesn’t elicit the same response as a George Karl, Stan Van Gundy or Dave Joerger, but it’s a reasonable solution for the time being. Where the go from here will be the more important story when all is said and done.