Saturday, Feb. 12 will go down in Timberwolves’ history either as a day that will correct the many wrongs of this season, or as a day that will haunt the franchise for seasons to come.
The Minnesota Timberwolves fired long-time coach Flip Saunders after struggling all season. Vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale decided after the Wolves’ 18-point loss to Utah on Feb. 11 that it was time for a change. McHale phoned owner Glen Taylor to get approval to fire Saunders Saturday morning. McHale then called Saunders, his long-time friend, and delivered the fateful news.
McHale, a former Boston Celtic great and Minnesota native, announced that he will coach the team for the remainder of the season, but made it clear he has no long-term plans to coach the team.
The change of coaches is an attempt to salvage what has been an atrocious season for the Wolves. The move may change things for the remainder of the season, but at what cost? Saunders was one of the best coaches in the NBA. He was the best coach the Timberwolves have had, period.
He leads the team in games won and is the only Timberwolves coach to lead them to a winning record in a season as well as a winning record overall as head coach. He coached the Wolves for over 70 percent of the team’s wins. He also led the Wolves to the playoffs the last eight years. The team hadn’t made it to the playoffs before his arrival.
Saunders brought the Wolves from the bottom of the league to one of the elite teams. This season is the first time in his tenure that the Wolves have underachieved. Nearly every year for the past eight seasons he has been mentioned as a possible coach of the year candidate. I think losing Saunders will hurt the team for the next couple of seasons.
The Wolves will find it extremely difficult to find as good a coach as Saunders. He was not the problem with the team, the players were. The chances of the team suddenly turning it around under a new coach, especially McHale, and making a run at the championship is not likely enough to warrant jeopardizing the future of the franchise and the firing of Saunders.
Brian Kimmes is a junior political science major studying abroad in Sweden.
#1.884644:1974795365.jpg:Brian Kimmes.jpg:Brian Kimmes, Ball Talk: