Only the Timberwolves can hire a new coach and nothing really changes. They put a Band-Aid on a broken leg.
Flip Saunders slides in, the same mess remains. At least Flip won’t be shocked by what he finds hiding in the closest.
Saunders’ re-introductory news conference Friday had a typical Wolves’ slapstick element to it. Owner Glen Taylor admitted multiple times that this arrangement was not his initial preference. He wanted Saunders to remain in his post as basketball boss while hiring a coach from the outside.
Saunders admitted that he and Taylor will re-evaluate this arrangement after next season. And the Summer of Love decision turned the event into one overlapping hypothetical.
Every question deserved a qualifier: If Kevin Love is traded …
“I don’t feel in limbo at all,” Saunders said.
His second stint as Wolves coach looks that way. Saunders isn’t sure he’ll coach one season, or long term. He doesn’t know how the Love saga will play out, though reading between the lines Friday, that whole we-want-Kevin-to-stay chorus we’ve heard from Wolves officials for so long is losing steam quickly.
Saunders and Taylor couched answers by admitting the obvious: This team potentially could look dramatically different next season.
And then what? More change, more rebounding, more of the same.
If the Timberwolves were a Doppler radar, they would be covered in bright ominous colors because the atmosphere around this organization is always unstable.
If it’s not Kurt Rambis, it’s David Kahn. Or a Joe Smith under-the-table contract fiasco. Or draft-night blunders. Or knuckle pushups. Or … it’s always something, isn’t it?
What this organization needs more than anything is stability. The Wolves rarely experience the tranquility of calm waters. The reason for that starts at the top and flows downward.
Constant mismanagement and goofy decisions make prosperity a fleeting pursuit. The Wolves can’t seem to get of their own way sometimes. And now this looming Love decision creates another layer of uncertainty.
“Every team, that’s what you’re trying to do is get stability,” Saunders said. “Sometimes it takes one, two moves in order to get that stability. The question you have is, do you gain your stability initially through your coach or do you gain it through your players? How do you do that?”
Saunders maintains a healthy appreciation for the blueprint that Gregg Popovich created and has sustained in San Antonio. The Spurs’ model is one that every franchise should want to emulate. Pop’s dynasty is the definition of stability.
Flip believes stability stems from an organization’s culture, the way it conducts itself on the court and behind the scenes. The Wolves’ culture remains tethered to this overarching sense of doom and gloom. To his credit, Saunders sounds hellbent on changing that mindset.
“When your culture is established, then no matter who you bring in from a coaching perspective, from management or players, they’re going to buy into that culture,” he said. “The one thing I believe over this next year for sure is we’re going to establish a culture with our players.”
Saunders is a smart basketball man. He’s also a solid coach. He ultimately made the right decision to return to the sideline because the uncertainty with Love’s situation makes this an undesirable job. Coaches want to know what they’re walking into, and Saunders can’t provide those answers with any real clarity right now.
Saunders reminded that the Wolves once hired Rambis, a triangle offense disciple, and surrounded him with players whose skills were antithetical to that scheme, which was “pretty much a disaster,” Flip correctly noted.
And so the Wolves find themselves at yet another crossroads. If they trade Love, the roster will be reshaped again presumably with a package of draft picks and/or young players. And the team conceivably could introduce another new coach this time next year.
Saunders said he has no interest in anointing a “coach-in-waiting” on his staff. He also acknowledged that he could “revisit” some of the coaches he already interviewed once the makeup of the roster is more defined after this upcoming season. Or he might just decide to keep the job for a few years.
Saunders disputed the limbo analogy, but the picture still looks fuzzy and unsettled. It’s hard to feel optimistic until that changes.