2014 Offseason

Flip Saunders will be the next coach of the Wolves because of course


The Minnesota Timberwolves are holding a press conference at 1pm CT on Friday and it’s going to look something like the picture above.

President of basketball operations and part-owner Flip Saunders confirmed to multiple media outlets he’ll be the next coach of the Wolves. We don’t know how long he’ll be the coach. We don’t quite know who will be on his assistant staff (although Sam Mitchell, David Blatt, Sidney Lowe, his son Ryan, and Chauncey Billups are being floated as possibilities, and you’d assume one of those guys would be groomed to take over). But we do know this is what the Wolves came up with when they couldn’t get Dave Joerger to be the coach and had to go back to the drawing board.

The drawing board led to Flip Saunders deciding he should hire himself to be the coach for a currently indeterminate amount of time. This isn’t shocking news to those who have been paying attention. Back when he was introduced as the new part-owner and president of basketball operations, Flip said something along the lines of “well, you never stop being a coach.” It was at that point it seemed obvious he’d eventually return to the sidelines, and considering he knew the guy making the personnel decisions and had a good relationship with himself, his role as president made it all the easier.

He just had to convince Glen Taylor to allow it. He’s apparently done that. For months, we’ve heard that Taylor wasn’t too keen on the idea of Flip assuming both roles with the team. The reason? Well, it’s really hard to pull off both, especially in today’s Collective Bargaining Agreement world. And considering this team needs 100% attention and effort given to both jobs at the same time, it seems impossible for Flip to do that while rebuilding the team. It also doesn’t allow him separation from ground zero of the roster.

That is the biggest trepidation of having the coach and the roster decision-maker as the same person. A player could win over the heart of Flip the coach when Flip the president should be trying to move him. That’s assuming Saunders can’t separate the two, and maybe that’s an unfair assumption, but it’s still a concern with this decision.

Other concerns are that Flip’s time in Washington with the Wizards was a disaster, and since the NBA has changed its defensive rules that neutralize the brilliance of Flip’s defensive rule-bending of his time when he was last the coach of the Wolves, his impact on the sidelines has been lessened considerably. I don’t think we know if Flip will be a bad coach or a good coach. He used to be a good coach here but we don’t know that he can be a good coach in today’s NBA. But that’s not the biggest concern I have with a placeholder decision like this.

The biggest concern for me with this move is it’s a last ditch effort to convince Kevin Love to stay. That’s great if he… you know… stays, but if he doesn’t, it destroys any and all leverage this team has in trading him. If the Wolves are going to get anything close to fair or good value in trading Love, it has to happen around draft night or right when free agency starts when teams have maximum cap room available. As the days, weeks, and months tick away, the Wolves lose leverage. How can the Wolves have leverage, some may ask?

As of right now, there is a prime bidding war in pursuit of Kevin Love. The Suns, Celtics, Bulls, Warriors, and Rockets are all serious bidders for the Wolves. The Knicks and Lakers like to pretend they’re in the hunt as well, but you have at least five serious contenders for it, and the Cavaliers could overwhelm them all if they decided to make the No. 1 pick available in this draft. As teams start having to fill up their rosters and eliminate their cap room in the process, the suitors start falling off. The asset return becomes diminished and you start wondering if you should even move him at the deadline or if it would make more sense to hope for a sign-and-trade when he hits free agency.

As of a couple months ago, this front office felt extremely confident they could sway Love into staying. After the past month of rumors and Love doing nothing to quell the storm, they can’t possibly fool themselves into thinking this has any likelihood. With this move, it feels like the team is burying its head in the sand and ignoring the gravity of this situation. This team isn’t being reactive, and they’re certainly not being proactive. They’re being stagnant, which the track record of this organization foretold it would be.

It’s possible Flip taking over will fix everything it needs to fix. But how does anybody feel confident in a decision like this when it feels like they have no idea where to go next?

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24 thoughts on “Flip Saunders will be the next coach of the Wolves because of course

  1. I don’t understand peoples logic. How can you say that Minnesota is not a destination for free agents then, bag on them for not having cap space? Why does it mean they are burying their head in the sand for Flip to come back as coach? Clearly he was the best option left.

  2. I don’t see Flip taking over as head coach as a last ditch effort to keep Kevin Love. I see it as an acknowledgement that Love is leaving and that this team is going to be going through at least some rebuilding. No big name coach was going to take the job without Love signed long term, so we were basically (after Joerger reversed course) going to be choosing between either a mediocre former head coach or taking a chance on an assistant. I’m not thrilled with having Flip coach, but from purely a coaching perspective, he is probably as good an option as we were going to get (with the possible exception of George Karl). Having Flip coach lets him take the heat until the roster is stabilized, at which point the Wolves hopefully become a more desirable coaching option. Unfortunately for us fans, this likely means a couple more years of missing the playoffs.

  3. I don’t have kids, although I’d like to be a father soon. Being a die-hard Timberwolves fan has really informed my world perspective, and I think the wolves have made me a better potential parent. Parents advocate for their children, tolerate their missteps, and sometimes talk themselves into accepting their sub-optimal life choices. Ultimately, a child becomes their own person and a parent learns to stop taking every mistake their kid makes personally. It’s their journey and a parents job is to nurture, guide, and support that journey where appropriate. Not every kid gets to be a champion, but that kid is yours. So it is with the wolves.

    KG appeared and they were MY TEAM. I would fight you like hockey mom if you said anything bad about the big ticket and crew (Flip too). After celebrating their early successes, I watched them implode and move back in the space above the garage. After forgetable years drinking away their time, it looked like they were starting to make the best out of a bad situation. Look, they broke up with their abusive ex-boyfrien, Kahn, and found some good chemistry. It was a reason to be hopeful and for them to get up every morning and try hard. Still, the baggage from those wasted years has put them in a tough spot, they can’t seem to escape it. In an epic move of self sabotage, they ruined the best thing they had going (Love) by not trusting it enough. At the time, those choices were somewhat understandable. Older, wiser teams might have seen the red flags, but our wolves weren’t sure that their unconventional asset was worth the price. But how could they have been sure? Kahn was poisoning their minds. Now, they have fallen back into some old patterns, bad habits we’ve seen before. I’m not surprised, and I’m not angry. I’ll be there, every game on league pass, supporting as best I can. But secretly, I had hoped for better from the wolves. There may yet come a time when they truly internalize their life-lessons and turn it around. Today is not that day, and as a fan/parent its tough, because you love that kid/team and all you want for them is happiness.

  4. NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner disagrees with you, Zach. While I get your perspective and this move doesn’t excite me, I can’t assume his stint in the gun-toting Wiz era indicates much (Wittman was blessed with the Nene and Ariza trades, Beal, and a more mature Wall). Who is on the roster after the next trade deadline will say the most about their post-Love rebuild.

  5. Extremely underwhelmed but not at all surprised. Better than taking a chance on someone who had never coached in the NBA I guess. The word ‘whatever’ best describes how I feel about this right now.

  6. Zach you made me laugh and considering I believe Flip taking over as coach is a worst case scenario that was quite the feat. “this team needs 100% attention and effort given to both jobs at the same time, it seems impossible for Flip to do that while rebuilding the team.”

    lol really how hard was his job last year? I am pretty sure I could have overpaid Budinger traded a #2 overall for nothing and then sit on the roster while 50% of the league was tanking and dumping players.

    There were quality coaches that interviewed and a couple who were never even called. I thought anything over Kahn was an improvement (and I am right) but Flip as coach is a leap backwards.

    We are in for a lot more darkness before we ever hope to see any light and the first glimmer of hope will be if Glen Taylor sales this team.

  7. If you’re a Minnesota fan, you’re dreaming for a miracle. If you’re a sports fan, you hope the Wolves go 0-82 next season, and lose the top draft pick on some arcane legality.

    Rock bottom. These people are idiots to do this and not think everyone sees them wearing no clothes. Not a pretty sight. Why is it in a state lauded for being progressive and relatively high-brow that these doofus hicks can make such an embarrassment of themselves? Would any reader of this blog allow Flip Saunders or Glen Taylor to manage a car wash? These guys need each other so they can go on fooling themselves and think nobody notices. Flip Saunders is going to convince Kevin Love to stay? I’ll bet my thousand dollars against your single dollar that Love is already gone. If they get the first pick from Cleveland, Saunders will help ruin it, that’s the bet we want to take.

    Rock rock rock bottom. A first-place blue ribbon for incompetence.

  8. I feel like this was always the contingency plan when they hired Flip – it was highly probable after this past season that (1) Adelman would retire and (2) Love’s future would be er, up in the air, and that they’d need someone to step in for a season or two while things shake out. Mediocre franchises historically have done these things with caretaker executive/coaches who have the right combination of job security and lack of ambition to hold the fort while the team goes nowhere (Wes Unseld with the Bullets, Bernie Bickerstaff with the Nuggets, that McHale guy with some team or another).

    I definitely do not see this move as an attempt to keep Love. I see it as a sideways step by a franchise for which a sideway step represents progress. Oh well, at least Glen Taylor isn’t a senile racist as far as we know.

  9. I don’t think it matters to Love which coach was on this team after Adelman. Flip just so happened to be (supposedly) better or equal to all the coaches left to hire. I imagine the decision was made to have Flip do it for a year or two on an interim basis. Then to have a fresh start once a coach that is actually desirable is able to be interviewed and hired….making the process WAAAY less messy. If a mediocre coach (like Flip) were to be hired for “x” amount of years and the right coach was available to be hired next season, firing that coach would be dead money (assuming it were for multiple years); not to mention the fact the impression would be “well there’s another Wolves mistake with that coaching hire”. I think Flip taking over is, in the long run, the best move the Wolves could make at this time given the circumstances.

  10. Welcome back to the basketball desert. The T-Wolves and their fans will be wandering around here for a while I guess. I guess I am ready to agree about the sad state of the ownership, I mean the front office has been terrible since Musselman. Now we have Flip desperately trying to steer the ship away from whatever disaster Kahn pointed it toward, Kahn in turn inherited a team destroyed by McHale’s love of Boston and Danny Ainge.

    We’ve had our chances, like the Vikes of the 70s and like the Vikes the Wolves are always three years (and in the Wolves case a superstar) away from significance. As far as high level players are concerned the Wolves are like the D-league, a place to improve your game while trying to get on a competitive team.

  11. The next coach will probably be one of the assistants Mr Saunders hires. This might give the local sports writers something to write about. (It must be depressing to cover the Timberwolves) Once the staff is in place the writers will have things to write about because speculation of Saunder’s replacement will increase.. Too bad, Mr McHale was resigned at Houston, ironically, I would like to see him coach under Saunders. Or is it satire?

  12. In the past few weeks, I have posted that right now the Wolves have supply/demand on their side. Because the demand is high, they should get a high pick and two established players for Love. However, if they wait and wait on this deal until the trade deadline, they lose all supply and demand leverage that they have now and consequently will get less. Probably a high pick and maybe one established player. They need to face facts, Love is leaving. It has nothing to do with the coach, it has to do with the team construction. So, as much as I love Love, and his game, he is gone. So, they need to get two starters back and a high pick. In a year or two, if those two starters and the draft pick is a starter by then, we MIGHT have a solid team. It is imperative that they do not lose the leverage and trade him early. They gain NOTHING by keeping him until February, but they do lose quality in what they are going to get back. Make the move now!!!

  13. As long as Sydney doesn’t coach Rubio… I can’t think of a worse point guard in NBA history. Sydney would turn his back to the basket at half court with token pressure and run the offense without facing his teammates. I still have nightmares about this. – Will we ever get an new article this month? It has been a while.

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