Ryan Saunders pursues his dream of NBA head coach


Ryan Saunders said he was trying to limit the time and energy spent on his phone, still very busy, in the 48 hours that followed his transformation into acting coach of the Timberwolves on Sunday.

In the interest of mental health, he has only tried to meet the needs of his family, close friends and those of the Wolf organization.

One of the calls he received was from one of his father's good friends, Tom Izzo.

The Michigan State coach said he could feel Saunders nerves.

"All he was talking about was preparing the team, doing this, that," Izzo said. "But I think that in general, his way of dealing with things looks a lot like Flip. I call it a mini-me. He is a mini-Flip. "

And just like Flip, Izzo said Ryan Saunders was born to coach. It was evident in his childhood when he was awake to watch a movie with Flip, in high school, as a walker with the Gophers, then as an assistant in the NBA.

Ryan, 32, is about the same age as his father when Flip was hired for the first time as a coach of a professional team – the Rapid City Thrillers of the old CBA . They even have some of the same touch methodisms, including a neck contraction noted by the Timberwolves this week.

Obtaining his first coaching post after returning his owner, Glen Taylor, Tom Thibodeau is not the ideal choice for Saunders, but his whole life has prepared him for that moment, even though he has left a slight doubt hovering.

"I think in life, you never know if you're ready before you're in the situation," Saunders said.

But those who know him think that he is more than ready.

"What's crazy is how many people know for sure what they want to do at the age of 12, 13 or 14 years old," said Spencer Tollackson, former Gophers center and current analyst. "And then, for that to really happen at the top of their career at age 32? To have this opportunity, he must be a coach at the highest level, rather cool things. "

What you see is what you get

As a roommate of Saunders U, Tollackson has had the opportunity to see a camp that few others have. His public attitude is apparent: the tailored and fashionable costumes, his carefully separated hair and the serious tone with which he answers the questions of the media.

Tollackson said that there is humor behind gravity.

"There's a side of Ryan that few people know that is extremely spiritual, very funny," said Tollackson. "But if you are not in his close circle, you will not necessarily see that."

That's because Saunders knew he had a public image to keep as Flip's son, and if Ryan became a coach he had to follow that discipline. That all he did, how he acted – no matter how bad the situation – was heading toward his own coaching career and a reflection on his family.

Saunders 'honesty is perhaps Saunders' most important attribute in any context.

"He is the most honest, honest, and honest person you meet, which is extremely important in his off-court relationship," said Tollackson. "As a former player, that's the honesty you want in a coach. You want to know where you are, is not it?

This, more than X and O, seems to be Saunders' business card as a coach – the way he builds relationships with his players. It's no secret that it was not the strength of Thibodeau as a coach and the difference between Saunders and his predecessor. Andrew Wiggins said that he had a lot of "confidence" in Saunders. Karl-Anthony Towns said he and Saunders had an "excellent" relationship. You can see tangible proof of this connection after Saunders' first win on Tuesday in Oklahoma City when the team poured water on him as he entered the locker room after game.

Bradley Beal, the star goalie of the club, who played for Saunders when Saunders was Wizards assistant from 2009 to 2014, attended this scene and was not surprised by his emotion.

"He's a real coach of players," Beal said. "I think that being young will also help him in the long run. He just likes the game, man. He is a true basketball spirit. "

The age is only a number

Saunders was not much older than Beal when Beal started his career in the NBA in 2012 at age 19. Although Saunders never played in the NBA, Beal explained that Saunders had explained to him what it meant to be a professional.

"These were things you thought you should already know, but he always emphasized them," said Beal. "He always drilled it until you understand it, and I owe it to him. It not only helps you get into the league, but teaches you to stay here, what you need, work, dedication. "

Having a relationship with the players does not mean you have to be afraid to criticize them, and Beal said that Saunders was never afraid to disclose it.

"He will never embarrass you or try to provoke a scene. It was always constructive with him, "said Beal. "It was always out of place for love and care."

That's how Saunders can win a locker room for players his age or older, said Izzo. That's how he does on a daily basis, that he will work to earn their respect and that he will not back down when he has something to say.

"Relation does not mean that he's still buddy-buddy," Izzo said. "I think it's an abuse of language. The only thing they relate to is that these players want someone they respect. It does not matter if he is 30, 50, 70 or 90 years old. If they respect him, they respect his knowledge and know that he is at a dead end with them, that's what's important. "

Izzo, a native of Michigan State, knows the coaching industry like everyone else. He did not try to seduce the kind of challenge that Saunders faces as an acting coach who tries to play in the playoffs.

"It's a difficult situation in which he is, let's face it," said Izzo. "I do not wish that to anyone."

It's now

But Izzo thinks Saunders is more than ready. He tells how Flip Saunders was with Izzo in 2009 while Michigan State was in the Final Four. Flip was exhausting Izzo and giving him so many games to install that Izzo did not know what to do with each one.

"I always laughed and told him that you had ruined my fat chart," Izzo said.

It's an indication of what Flip was like and the kind of basketball devotion he passed on to Ryan – who survived until his son died, even after Flip's death in 2015. is one of the reasons why Izzo thinks Saunders' age is irrelevant to his potential success. Thanks to Flip, basketball occupies so many corners and cracks in Ryan's brain – more than most people who have been training for years.

"The way he was raised, he has a small advantage over some people who have not been raised that way," Izzo said.

One of the Flip games featured in the first game that Saunders had called as the head coach against Oklahoma City, 5-52 Twist, a snap appropriate to Ryan's Flip, who, if all goes was going well over the next three months, could be a bridge between the past of the organization to its future.

"He told me that he was proud of me," Saunders said. "He knew it was a goal – finally."

Finally, I arrived a little earlier than expected.

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