DENVER – Owner Glen Taylor will have some help when deciding whether to retain General Manager Scott Layden and interim coach Ryan Saunders.
The Wolves are looking for a new president of basketball operations, the team confirmed Wednesday in a news release. That hire will help make decisions regarding the future of the franchise, including who will be the general manager and who will be the coach.
“The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves continues to be very bright,” Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said in the release. “It’s more important than ever that we find a leader who can build a successful team in today’s fast-paced NBA. We have the cornerstones of a very talented team and need to assemble the final pieces that will elevate us into a playoff team and one that can compete for championships.”
Layden was hired when Tom Thibodeau served in the dual rule of coach and president but stayed on after Taylor fired Thibodeau in January. Upon firing Thibodeau, Taylor said he did not want to have a president and coach who served in both capacities, but it was unclear how Taylor would structure the front office beyond this season. There’s no timetable for completing the new hire.
Layden has been in charge of operations since Thibodeau was fired. Taylor also said then that Saunders would have every chance to win the coaching job going forward. Players have vouched for Saunders even though the team went 17-25 after he took over. The Wolves finished their season Wednesday night with a 99-95 loss at Denver.
The Wolves have been hit by injuries to multiple key contributors, such as Jeff Teague, Robert Covington, Taj Gibson, Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose. But Saunders’ communication skills helped keep the team stay focused even as it faded from playoff contention, and he has a positive track record in player development.
“It really does not change anything for me one bit,” Saunders said before the game. “When I accepted this post in early January I approached it as I’m the head coach until they tell me I’m not the head coach. That’s how I continue to look at things moving forward.”
Multiple sources over the final weeks of the season said Saunders was in good standing to get the job full time and that his relationship with Taylor was sound.
That boded well for his long-term future with the organization. Layden’s status was more uncertain within the Wolves, according to sources.
But it’s unclear how a new president will affect Saunders and Layden. The new hire could decide to retain neither, one or both of them, and it adds an air of uncertainty around the organization. ESPN reported Wednesday that it would be Taylor’s preference to retain both Layden and Saunders after the process of finding a president is over.
“In the absence of Tom, I want to thank all who picked up his responsibilities this past year. This includes [Saunders], [Layden] and our entire basketball staff for their efforts leading our team through the 2018-19 season,” Taylor said in the release.
“They worked through a season with many injuries requiring many challenges in our player lineup. We are incredibly grateful to them for all of their hard work and commitment to the franchise.”