Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Wolves Makeover: My Take on Taylor/Saunders 2.0

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Wolves Makeover: My Take on Taylor/Saunders 2.0

Article excerpt

By now you have probably heard the news: Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has declined to extend the contract of now-former President of Basketball Operations David Kahn, and replaced him with Flip Saunders, who was the team's general manager for six months and its head coach for nearly a decade from 1995 to2005.

It's the end of the week, and I just got back from the press conference at Target Center announcing the appointment of Saunders, so I'm just going to bang out what I feel to be the most prominent new information for your digestion over the weekend.

My greatest concern -- that hiring Saunders would cut into the authority or comfort level of existing head coach Rick Adelman -- was alleviated somewhat in the media scrums with first Saunders and then Taylor after the formal press conference.

Taylor went on at some length explaining that Adelman was thoroughly vetted about a possible Saunders hire before the actual offer was made. The owner was concerned that Adelman might be leery of him hiring a longtime former coach of the franchise, and said he "made it clear" that "Rick is my coach and Flip is not my coach."

But according to Taylor, Adelman welcomed the addition, saying it would be a good thing to have another keen basketball mind to bounce things off of from a coach's perspective. Taylor quoted Adelman as saying, "I have enough confidence in myself" not to be at all threatened by Saunders coming on board. And he said he knows now that Adelman is "behind it 100 percent."

For his part, Saunders said he talked to Adelman directly by phone for about 90 minutes, mostly about the team's offense. Both during the formal press conference and during the media scrum, he repeatedly mentioned finding players who are the best fit for Adelman's system.

As with Taylor's interpretation of Adelman's reaction, Saunders said there is a real benefit and synergy from having two successful coaches putting their heads together on strategy.

So far, so good -- at least we are assured that this was not imposed upon Adelman and that the coach himself seems well disposed toward the shift from Kahn to Saunders. Those are potential bedrock obstacles that apparently don't and won't exist.

At the risk of sounding too cynical, however, I wouldn't predict totally smooth sailing in the Adelman-Saunders relationship.

Still cause for reservations, if not skepticism

First of all, Saunders rightly has a high opinion of his ability to evaluate and improve this team, and he is speaking like a man ready and willing to make bold changes. "We've got a lot of work to do" was his mantra, and one of the times he invoked it was to draw a contrast to the catechism of non-playoff teams who extol their youthful talent and salary cap space and deliver feel-good platitudes. …

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