Goodbye, Ryan Saunders! You will not be missed.
That is the sole sentiment Minnesota Timberwolves fans should have after hearing the team fired third-year head coach Saunders. All the while, the Wolves had his replacement ready to go. With rumors immediately breaking Wolves’ owner Glen Taylor would hire Toronto Raptors assistant, Chris Finch, in his place.
With a record of 7-24, Saunders currently led the Wolves to the worst record in the NBA. While the team is young, the promising flashes seemed fewer and further between. The firing of Saunders was clearly a matter of timing.
Quit Sucking Off Personalities
Perpetual ineptitude has been the name of the game for the Timberwolves for nearly their entire existence. Outside of the Kevin Garnett era, they have easily been the worst team in the NBA. Rashes of bad hires and missteps have plagued this organization for a while.
All the while, fans and established media alike flock to social media. Yet not to constantly rip into the organization and their failures. Instead, they choose to look at the franchise as a “glass half full” situation. I fully believe Saunders is an amazing individual. However, when are Minnesotans and subsequent transplants going to grow some thicker skin and just let it all rip?
I’m not asking people to not state they enjoyed working with an individual. But when it becomes the sole talking point, there’s an issue with society at large.
Take this wonderful gem of a tweet from the incomparable, Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune.
When did Reusse and the like become the de facto board of common sense? An NBA organization is a business and it is a business in the ruthless real world. In the middle of a season that has no turnaround hopes, who the fuck cares if Finch loses to former Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau in his first game? Whether the Finch hire ends up good or bad, no one in the right mind expects this year to be salvaged. So why does that minor detail matter in the slightest, Pat?
Reusse is one of many examples highlighting how fans and media have no consensus on the move. However, while Wolves fans circle-jerk to pictures of Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell photoshopped with the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the most notable whiner in this saga comes from an NBA superstar.
Dame Dolla The Supposed Almighty
I get where Damian Lillard is coming from here. I really do. He is advocating for a close friend and former coach. A potential internal candidate for the Saunders replacement instead of Finch and a hire that may have already been reviewed.
There is no harm there. The issue comes from this insane push from Dame after the Finch news leaked. Even with the Timberwolves not publicly announcing their intentions and not knowing if Vanterpool was considered. There is nothing out of the ordinary there. Dame is pissed because the Timberwolves fired Saunders and immediately leaked Finch’s hire. Clearly, they’ve been planning this for a while. If you know someone who thinks Gersson Rosas fired Saunders and then just randomly called Chris Finch and offered him a job that Finch accepted all within 15 minutes of each other, please get them in touch with me. I have ocean-front property in Oklahoma to sell them.
Additionally, Dame has never been coached by Finch. How the hell does Dame know how good or bad Finch could be when Rosas picked Finch on purpose? Especially considering Dame’s pick, Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool, is supposedly a defensive guru. All while coaching a team with one of the worst defenses in the league.
Analyzing Lillard’s comments from a logical perspective, there’s no winning for him. His comments don’t provide any definitive way for him to know the differences between the two without disclosing more information. In no way is this me suggesting he, “shut up and dribble.” This is along the lines someone knowing a decent amount on how the business works yet still acting like they don’t understand it at all. Idiocy.
Saunders Was Never The Answer
Dame has every right to have questions and to be upset. As do fans who are truly concerned about the league’s tampering rules that are never addressed. If anyone can do this without repercussions, why do they even bother pretending to have the rules?
Let me pose a different question: Why would anyone be surprised a coach with a less than stellar head coaching record wasn’t already on the hot seat?
Saunders appeared to be near the top of Taylor’s list for the job immediately after firing Tom Thibodeau after installing him as the interim coach in 2019. While Saunders has experience coaching on different NBA staffs, his ascent to head coach also felt swayed by who his father was. The late Flip Saunders. The winningest coach in Timberwolves history.
Although Ryan Saunders was superb at building relationships with his players, just as his father did, that’s only one part of the equation. Which made Ryan’s promotion increasingly perplexing as the losses mounted. To think a first-time head coach with a record of 36-70 entering this season wasn’t entering dangerous territory is asinine.
Even with injuries and two seasons screwed up by a pandemic, were there any solid long-term skills Saunders had? Not really. These are not necessarily excuses in favor of Saunders, but the Minnesotan way is to be passive-aggressive. Leading to the never ending cycle of mediocrity. Minnesotans will rip into athletes and coaches. Saunders is an excellent example.
Yet the majority of fans are not as in-tune with their teams as others. Leading to a misunderstanding of who the problem(s) stem from. Minnesotans have this down to a science apparently, as the cries for Saunder’s job grew over recent weeks. One individual continues to use the Five D’s of Dodgeball to avoid more public disdain.
GTFO, Glen Taylor.
Timberwolves fan’s passion and loyalty towards the organization are admirable and understandable. Yet there never seems to be enough critical accountability held against the team. Sure, attendance hasn’t been close to a bright spot in recent years. But those who still support this team have become milquetoast yes men for Glen Taylor. Media members focusing on the likes of player transactions and coach overhaul instead of who needs to be held accountable.
The owner himself. Glen Taylor.
Although Taylor isn’t likely to sell the team in the immediate future, his time in Minnesota sports has long since overstayed its welcome. After his purchase of the team in 1994 ensured a long-term stay in Minnesota, the honeymoon was short-lived. Peaking in 2004 with the franchise’s only conference finals appearance. It has been mediocrity ever since. Meaning Taylor’s duty has been performed and it is time for him to move on.
Taylor is the individual we all need to focus our ire on. Not necessarily the easy targets like players or coaching decisions, but the man truly responsible for developing a championship culture in the end. The owner.
Glen Taylor has been a sham and disgrace of an owner for the Wolves. A franchise that had potential to be something more than a bottom-feeder has become a perennial lock for a top lottery pick. It has been Taylor’s hand muddling around in everything from the Sam Mitchell replacement to the Thibodeau hiring. Obviously Thibs’ firing, along with naming Saunders both the interim and then full-time head coach were under Taylor as well.
All of those moves have one thing in common. No one has held Glen Taylor to the fire and force him to recant his ideals that pushed the organization to this breaking point. These are just the most recent coaching changes too. While hiring Gerson Rosas has looked like a solid move, it has not been enough to absolve the marks on Taylor’s record.
Tear It Down. Brick By Proverbial Brick.
If the Timberwolves truly want to take the next step forward, there is only one move to make. Taylor selling the team. Hopefully to a group planning on keeping them in Minnesota. All while having the new team completely overhaul the organization. From the on-court product to how things are conducted in front office departments. Reveling in an insane posterization is chill, but to solely focus on that and not other aspects of the game is frustrating for a fan.
That may come off as the old man yelling at clouds, but it’s ridiculous. How did the rest of the night go for Edwards, by the way? Case and point. I don’t care that he is a rookie. There’s more to the game than balls to the face dunks.
Taylor’s purpose and role as owner of the Timberwolves has been fulfilled, as mentioned. But with a product that shits the bed basically every year, when does Taylor look himself in the mirror?
In the end, he is the one to bear the brunt of the blame. Even though Minnesotans should grow some balls and hold their team owners accountable, blame Taylor for the rapid fall from grace. From ill-advised hires to “cultural decisions” that make you scratch your head. Even the lack of development we are seeing out of the players. This all rests on his shoulders.
A two-time graduate of the University of Florida in Sport Management, Jack is your typical obnoxiously opinionated sports fan. Utilizing logic, reasoning, and facts to back arguments. Whether it is Minnesota sports or beyond, you can expect the hottest takes and juiciest comebacks when you see his name.