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A Look at the Minnesota Timberwolves Coaches for 2020-21
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the worst franchises in the NBA recently. The organization has only one playoff appearance since 2004 and looked lost in the past decade or so.
We saw weird trades, inner scandals, and huge contracts given to players that didn’t deserve them. The Timberwolves are currently trying to steady the ship after trading Andrew Wiggins and acquiring D’Angelo Russell as the new partner of Karl-Anthony Towns.
The goal would be to quickly rebuild with that duo leading the roster, and the Timberwolves coaching staff will have the tough task to make this team competitive once again.
The head coach Ryan Saunders is one of the least experienced in the NBA, so he’ll really have to rely on his assistants. I share my thoughts on all members of the staff heading into the NBA 2020-21 season.
Ryan Saunders – Following the Steps of His Father
The story of Ryan Saunders and his connection to the Timberwolves starts very early on. His father, Flip Saunders, was the head coach of the team twice during his career, leading Minnesota for a total of 11 seasons.
He’s well-respected by the organization, and it was only natural for his son to receive a chance too. Saunders started his career as an assistant of the Washington Wizards before getting the same position with the Timberwolves in 2014.
Saunders was promoted and became the youngest NBA head coach since 1978 when Tom Thibodeau was fired in 2019. His first full season at the helm was tough, but that’s hardly a surprise considering the roster at his disposal.
On the bright side, the Timberwolves finally moved Andrew Wiggins, and they landed the top pick in the NBA 2020 draft. The team used it to select Anthony Edwards, who has the potential to contribute immediately.
The overall impression is that the Timberwolves should have a formidable offense with the rookie helping Russell and KAT. The big question is if Saunders can improve the defense enough for the 2020-21 campaign.
The team needs to be at least average in that regard in order to have a shot at the NBA Playoffs. Missing on the postseason won’t be the end of the world, but Saunders might lose his job if the Timberwolves don’t at least stay in contention for most of the campaign.
Minnesota Timberwolves Assistants Coaches for 2020-21
With such a young coach at the helm, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ assistants certainly will play a key role in the franchise’s future. Let’s take a look at the people who are responsible for helping Ryan Saunders.
The head coach’s right hand David Vanterpool has had an interesting path, to say the least. He played in the NBA before moving to Europe, where he started his coaching career in CSKA Moscow.
After five years in Russia, Vanterpool returned to the USA as an assistant to the Portland Trail Blazers and spent seven years with the organization. He was hired by the Timberwolves as an associate head coach alongside Ryan Saunders, and the duo is expected to lead the team for the years to come.
Kevin Burleson is another former player with international experience who became a coach after his retirement. He was hired by the Timberwolves in 2019 as a player development specialist and was promoted to an assistant for the 2020-21 NBA season.
One of the interesting new appointments before the start of the upcoming season is Joseph Blair. The former center and power forward was appointed by the Minnesota Timberwolves as an assistant, and I expect him to work with the organization’s big men.
Bryan Gates built his reputation in the G-League, where he became Coach of the Year twice. That opened the door to the NBA, and he’s been working as an assistant at the highest level for more than a decade now.
I believe that Gates is one of the most valuable members of the Timberwolves staff, and his experience should be very helpful for Ryan Saunders.
Next in line is Kevin Hanson, who was appointed in the 2019-20 season. His area of expertise is player development, so he is the guy who will try to get the best out of Anthony Edwards and develop the top pick for the future.
One of the more exotic members of the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff for 2020-21 is Pablo Prigioni. The former point guard holds the record for the oldest NBA rookie as a player and transitioned into coaching in 2017.
He was part of the Brooklyn Nets staff in 2018-19, before joining the Timberwolves. Prigioni’s main responsibility is the offense of the team.
Technically speaking, Rudy Tomjanov is part of the Timberwolves’ front office, but I simply can’t ignore an NBA legend of his caliber. The Rockets icon and NBA champion was recently appointed as a Player Personnel Consultant.
Rudy Tomjanovich To Join Timberwolves As Player Personnel Consultant https://t.co/1OGtUzWnqy— RealGM (@RealGM) December 6, 2020
Tomjanovic has invaluable experience and should be able to help Saunders get the best out of his players. The Hall of Famer knows how to deal with big egos, and that’s going to pivotal for the organization.
I will be honest here, I’m not sure what to think about the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff going forward. It’s an exciting group of specialists that can bring a lot to the table and Ryan Saunders certainly looks like an ambitious head coach.
His lack of experience shouldn’t be a big deal with Rudy Tomjanovich on board, and the staff around him has all the tools to build a strong NBA offense.
What worries me is the other end of the floor. The Timberwolves simply need to get better defensively, and I don’t see the players or the coaches that can achieve that. That’s why I’m rather pessimistic when it comes to the team’s chance to fight for the playoffs in 2020-21.
If you disagree with me, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.