Minnesota Golden Gophers alum Ryan Saunders was named the interim head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. He was elevated to the position by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor after former head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau was fired after the Wolves win over the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday at Target Center. Saunders at the age of 32 now becomes the youngest head coach in the NBA by over six years.
Ryan Saunders of course is the son of late Gopher legend and former Timberwolves coach and GM Flip Saunders. He played for the Gophers from 2004-2006 before a wrist injury ended his playing career. While he didn’t pay a game between 2006 and 2008, he was named a two-time captain by his teammates. He was a graduate assistant for Tubby Smith in the 2008-09 season before joining his dad as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. After five seasons in Washington Ryan again followed his dad back home when he was named a Timberwolves assistant coach in 2014. He has been on the Wolves staff since under his dad, Sam Mitchell, and Thibodeau.
Saunders becomes the second Gopher alum to currently be a head coach in the NBA. He joins 2001 alum JB Bickerstaff who is currently the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. He is the fifth Gopher alum all-time to become a head coach in the NBA following Bickerstaff, his father Flip, Kevin McHale and John Kundla.
Good luck to Ryan as he tries to turn the Timberwolves season around and earn the permanent job. His head coaching career begins Tuesday night when the Wolves head to OKC for a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.