Flip Saunders Should Rule Himself Out For Timberwolves Coaching Position

Jonathan Daniel

Regardless of what you think of Flip Saunders as the Wolves President of Basketball Operations, he's locked into that job. But by not disqualifying himself definitely from the head coaching search, he makes it harder to find and hire the best coach available.

"Never say never."

"Ideally, right now, we're going to do a search"

--Flip Saunders on the Wolves vacant Head Coaching position.

Ideally? You're the one in charge, Flip.  You do a search, that's your job.  It isn't up to the Fates, it's your decision. I was vocal in my dislike of the process that landed Flip Saunders in his current role, and by not clarifying the process for hiring a coach by hinting that he might take the job himself, he is engaging in more of the bad process that we have come to understand as the Timberwolves way.

I do not know how serious the possibility is, but even if it's not likely that he takes the job, as he suggested today on Mike and Mike and Glen Taylor has intimated, the fact that it's out there is not helping matters. Meanwhile, two of our local reporters actually think Flip is a serious candidate:

At any rate, his unwillingness to rule himself out definitely as a candidate for the Head Coaching position is a mistake on multiple levels. Regardless of whether he's actually a good NBA coach.

First of all, he cannot possibly be the best available person for the job, given that he is also the POBO. While not entirely mutually exclusive, these are both full time jobs, with different priorities. A coach is trying to win tonight's game, or at least as many games as possible in the present. That is his focus.  The person in charge of basketball operations has to consider the medium and long term needs of the team as well as the current situation.  Things like salary cap flexibility, future assets, age vs. youth are all things that a POBO needs to keep in mind.  When the present needs of the team conflict with future benefits, there has to be a robust decision making process with both positions defended rigorously. The same person cannot effectively advocate for both sets of needs.

More importantly, by not removing himself from (his own) consideration, he is needlessly complicating the process, and making it much less appealing to potential hires. When the guy interviewing you is also a candidate for the job, it is not a good process.  How can Saunders approach the search with an open mind when it's in his mind to coach the team himself? How can candidates take this job seriously when the decision-maker is a candidate himself? Potential candidates will inevitably wonder if there is really a job opening at all, or if it is just a show before Flip names himself.

Further, even if Saunders wants to hire someone else, by hinting at his own availability and interest, it makes the job that much less appealing. Wouldn't any hire be concerned that Saunders will be looking over his shoulder, questioning his coaching decisions when he views himself as a potential coach?

It's difficult enough to sell highly qualified people on this job, given the long history of losing, the questions surrounding Kevin Love's future with the franchise, and the difficult market. Why would a Stan van Gundy or Tom Izzo take this seriously when, on top of all of that, Flip Saunders refuses to define his own role.

This is not a healthy situation. For some reason, this franchise simply cannot get out of its own way. Instead of approaching things with clarity, the Wolves bumble around without direction. When things could be made simple, they are instead complicated. When there needs to be a rigorous process, there is a country club mentality. Here's the statement that should come from Flip Saunders:

"I will not be the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. My job is to run the basketball operations of this organization, not coach the team. To that end, I will be conducting a rigorous search to find the best available coach to replace Rick Adelman. Once we hire that coach, my job is to provide him with all the resources I can for success, and let the coach do the coaching. We are moving ahead with the process of identifying possible candidates, and will hopefully begin conducting interviews soon. There is no specific timetable to complete this process, but we hope to have the right person in place as soon as possible."

Really, it's simple. Flip needs to concentrate on basketball operations; building the best possible roster for both the short and long term health of the franchise. Putting the team in position to compete. To do that, he needs to find the best possible coach to win games now and in the future. That isn't him.  He should make it clear to everyone involved, candidates, players, fans, that the coach will be in charge of the team on a day to day basis, and that he will not interfere with that.

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