Minneapolis/St. Paul –The Minnesota Timberwolves today named Ryan Saunders as the team’s Head Coach. Saunders was named the team’s Interim Head Coach on January 6, 2019.
“I’m pleased to announce Ryan Saunders as our head coach,” said Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. “Ryan is an excellent communicator and has developed open and trusting relationships with our players. I’ve known Ryan for many years and have always respected his approach to the game, work ethic, basketball knowledge and passion. His coaching style and philosophies are ideal for the modern NBA and I am confident that as a partner he will get the most out of our players as we build an identity and a sustainable winning model.”
“I want to thank Mr. Taylor and Gersson Rosas for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team and organization I have so much respect for,” Saunders said. “I look forward to building on what we established last season in terms of instilling a positive environment for our players to grow on and off the court. I’m excited to collaborate with Gersson and our staff to build a winning team that we can all be proud of.”
Saunders, 33, served as the Wolves’ interim head coach over the final 42 games of the 2018-19 season. Under Saunders’ direction, a number of Wolves players’ statistics improved over the second half of last season, namely Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins who saw increases in their respective scoring, field goal percentage, rebounding and assist averages. Saunders has been with the Timberwolves organization since 2014, serving as assistant coach for four-plus seasons prior to being elevated to interim head coach.
“In Ryan, we are getting one of the bright, young coaching minds in the NBA,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. “I am impressed with how he has developed relationships with our players and with his modern approach to our growing game. I entrusted Gersson to make this decision and I firmly stand by him in our belief that Ryan is the right person to lead our team.”
Saunders served as head coach for Minnesota’s Las Vegas Summer League entry for the past three summers, including the team’s runner-up finish in 2016. He also participated in the first Basketball Without Borders Europe Camp, which was held in Lohja, Finland in 2016, as well as Basketball Without Borders Asia 2018, which was held in India.
Before joining Minnesota’s staff, Saunders spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards, where he played a key role in the development of four-time All-Star John Wall and two-time All-Star Bradley Beal, among others. Saunders was also heavily involved in game preparation for upcoming opponents, creating extensive scouting reports and statistical analysis.
A University of Minnesota graduate, Saunders worked on Tubby Smith’s staff at his alma mater afterplaying four seasons with the Golden Gophers where he was a two-time captain, four-time scholar athlete award winner and a 2006 Big Ten All-Academic selection. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management.
Saunders is the son of Debbie and Flip Saunders, a 17-year NBA coaching veteran and the all-time winningest coach in Timberwolves franchise history. He married his wife, Hayley, in the summer of 2017.