The Minnesota Timberwolves have gone full circle in the worst possible way. On Sunday, the organization chose to fire three-year head coach Ryan Saunders after Saunders and the Wolves lost 103-99 to the New York Knicks. The Knicks, coincidentally, is currently being coached by Tom Thibodeau who Saunders replaced back in 2019.
That’s got to be a league record in some strange, bizarre way.
The Timberwolves fired their head coach tonight after losing to a team coached by the last guy they fired.
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) February 22, 2021
The Wolves have been the epitome of dysfunction for the past few seasons and Saunders, unfortunately, has been on top of all the mess. Since taking over the head coaching job in January of 2019, the 34-year-old has only managed to win 43 out of his 93 games in Minnesota. There’s no other way to put it – Ryan Saunders’ time as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coach has been awful.
Sunday’s breaking news was the perfect ironic ending to Saunders tenure in Minneapolis. His team losing to his former boss in the hands of no less than the New York Knicks is just plain sad. To have the Knicks, who have been the laughing stock of the entire NBA for the longest time, lap you in terms of progress, and find success with the man you fired, is just a different level of dysfunction.
The Knicks are having one of their best seasons in recent memory. Beyond that, they’ve given their tortured fan base a tiny sliver of hope that might be worth holding onto this season.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has gotten no semblance of success over the past few years. Currently, they have the worst record in the NBA with a 7-24 record. They’re scraping for wins at the bottom of the standings with to lowly Detroit Pistons being one game ahead of them. Injuries have again taken center stage for the Wolves this season as they continue to battle through absences from key players like Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell who have both been in and out of Saunders’ rotation this season and last.
This isn’t all on Saunders’ head, though. Minnesota, as a whole, has been outright terrible for nearly two decades. Their playoff stint in 2018 seemed to have been a Jimmy Butler-induced fluke as they continue to resemble a tanking/rebuilding team season after season. After being a staple in the post-season in the late 1990s to the early 2000s, the organization has struggled to bring the team back to relevance.
The organization has historically made bad decisions which were highlighted with their move to ship out Jimmy Butler in 2018, after a controversial end to his time in the Twin Cities. They also hoped that bringing in Russell, one of Towns’ good friends, would help them build a formidable core. But, the Wolves have been lost in the woods.
Add to this, fortune hasn’t been on their side. Russell and Towns have only been able to play in a total of five games together since D’Lo came to town. Both stars have missed ample time this season with Russell going through knee issues and Towns battling through a dislocated wrist and, more recently, recovering from COVID-19.
The Wolves are now hitting the lowest of lows, but if gravity has taught us anything, things should even themselves out. It has to eventually, right? They’re now hoping that moving on from Saunders and bringing in a guy like Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch could help them slowly bounce back. The Wolves could retain their lottery pick from the Golden State Warriors that’s top-3 protected, and build the missing franchise piece alongside Towns, Russell, and their last two lottery talents Jarrett Culver and number one overall pick Anthony Edwards. KAT and D’Angelo could stay healthy and develop vital chemistry they need to be one of the most improved teams next season, similar to the resurgence we’re seeing from the Knicks this year.
But that being said, don’t be surprised if things continue to get worse before they get better for the Timberwolves before the wheel finally turns in their favor.