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Taylor: Interim Coach Has to Sell Himself

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May 6, 2019

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In an interview today, owner Glen Taylor said it will be up to new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas to decide if Ryan Saunders has the interim tag removed from his title as the Minnesota Timberwolves head coach.

Taylor is an admirer of Saunders but said he isn’t telling Rosas who should be the team’s head coach for next season. “He’s got to sit down with Ryan,” Taylor said following a news conference at Target Center where Rosas was introduced as the franchise’s new basketball boss.

Does Saunders have to sell himself? “Sure, he does,” Taylor said. “That’s part of his job, but I am positive Ryan knows what he wants to do, and he will do a good job. So we’ll see how it works out.”

Saunders, 33, is the NBA’s youngest head coach and was promoted to his interim status in January when Tom Thibodeau was fired. Although he had never been a head coach before, he impressed Taylor despite the team not making the playoffs.

“I think that Ryan did a great job based upon the circumstances that he was given,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to really measure him when you have so many of his guys that were injured and stuff.

“But I still watched how he substituted, brought players in, got the most out of some of our young guys and did some really positive things. I haven’t changed in my thinking, and now we’ll see what others think.”

Glen Taylor

Taylor said that during the interview process Rosas asked what he saw in Saunders. But Taylor didn’t try to prejudice the decision Rosas will need to make in the coming weeks about who his coach will be.

The Wolves missed the playoffs this spring after qualifying for the postseason in 2018 for the first time since 2004. Taylor believes in the personnel already in place. “I haven’t changed my mind. I think we have the talent.

“What he (Rosas) talked about is something I just really believe in too. We’ve got to develop our own players, our draft choices. We’ve got to get those guys to play better.

“I think that’s what he’s got to talk to the coach (about). What plays do you set up? What styles do you do to utilize the skills of your players? …

Taylor said the goal of building a world class organization is shared by Rosas who worked for 17 years in the successful Rockets organization and gained a variety of experiences including as executive vice president of basketball operations. The ultimate goal for the Wolves is an NBA title for an organization that began play in 1989 and has never reached the league finals. “I think we have selected a leader that can take us there,” Taylor said of the 40-year-old Rosas.

Worth Noting

Rosas’ wife Susana said the couple, who have been married almost 16 years, met in high school in Houston. “When we met he told me he wanted to be the president …(of a) team. We were 15 years old and I thought he was trying to impress me,” Susana said. “Lo and behold…here we are today. We’re very thankful and blessed.”

It’s a solid bet the Vikings and the metro area will host their first NFL Draft within seven to 10 years. Club officials are interested, but probably have to wait awhile for the NFL’s blessing after Minneapolis hosted the 2018 Super Bowl. The city of Nashville estimates more than 500,000 fans attended Draft activities last month.

While there is speculation the Vikings want to restructure tight end Kyle Rudolph’s contract to better the club’s payroll—or even trade  him—he does remain a superb pass catcher. He and rookie tight end Irv Smith could sometimes be on the field together. The Vikings might line up the athletic Smith in the slot while using two tight ends, and have Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the flanks.

Irv Smith

The 29-year-old Rudolph isn’t known as an elite blocker, but Smith was praised for that skill in college at Alabama. Smith said, “I don’t want to be classified as a receiving tight end. I want to be classified as a complete tight end.”

Kyle Kilgore, the rookie free agent defensive end trying out with the Vikings, describes his four years at Division III Bethel as the best of his life. He told Sports Headliners he was taught at Bethel that you either become a “horse,” or a “jackass.”

“That place is chock full of horses,” the East Ridge alum said. “It’s rich soil. I can say I’ve grown as a man in those four years. All the brothers that I have on that football team forcing me to be better every day. Kind of the coolest thing.”

Kilgore’s Bethel teammate, safety Dawson Brown, is a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. He played high school football at Becker.

Brown and Kilgore have been training together since the Royals season ended at the East Metro location of ETS Performance. ETS is run by Ryan Englebert who trained Thielen after his senior year of college.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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