Ryan Saunders was officially hired as a Timberwolves assistant coach Tuesday, a move that seemed to be a formality once his father, Flip, added head coaching duties to his title of President of Basketball Operations.
At his introductory news conference Tuesday, Ryan Saunders talked plenty about forging his own identity separate from his dad, which he feels he was able to do in Washington by staying on the Wizards staff the past two years. Ryan joined the staff when Flip was hired as head coach, but Flip was fired in the middle of the 2011-12 season and Ryan stayed on.
This market has seen more than its share of father-son combos — enough to toss around the word nepotism without much caution. Rick Adelman, Tubby Smith … now Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner … just to name four. All of them had sons working with them. It’s an interesting dynamic, to be sure, and one that can create a certain amount of healthy skepticism (particularly when a staff does not pan out).
Perhaps the most interesting thing to us, though — and the thing that makes this a merit-based move more than just a name move — is Ryan Saunders’ background in analytics. He is the co-founder of Gametime Concepts, a program that takes in-game analysis and statistical probabilities to provide real-time results. It’s used by NBA and NCAA teams, and it’s clearly part of Saunders’ belief system.
He was asked numerous questions about analytics on Tuesday and cited a specific example of John Wall’s turnover tendencies in Washington as an example of how numbers and information can help improve a player’s game. Wall had a tendency to turn the ball over in transition, but knowing about the tendency helped him make better decisions in games, Saunders said.
In a league in which margins are thin — the Wolves’ infamous poor stretch last season in close games helped doom them — one or two possessions can be huge. If Saunders brings an edge that helps the Wolves in those spots (or helps the likes of Ricky Rubio improve overall), he will be a good addition to the staff.