The Timberwolves team and fans are still grieving over the loss of the most powerful person in the organization, Flip Saunders, just two days before the beginning of the season. Thus, the Timberwolves have been left scrambling for direction. The season was about development. But now the season has an entirely new purpose. The Wolves want to make Flip proud. The young nucleus of this team was hand-picked by Flip Saunders and now they must try to figure out, ‘Why me?’ without the direction of their leader.
The interim Head Coach Sam Mitchell and GM Milt Newton will take immediate responsibility of the young Wolves. Many fans rightfully worry if they have the vision that Flip had. So the question has to arise, who will be Flip’s successor? Who will assume his responsibilities? The answers remain unseen, but for the time being Mitchell and Newton will lead. Milt Newton was Flip’s right-hand man. Flip commonly credited Milt with personnel decisions and explaining he made the deals happen. Sam Mitchell on the other hand will have to work for his job security. This season will serve as an interview for him. You have to imagine if Flip or Milt felt Mitchell was ready for the job, he would’ve been hired for the head coaching vacancy instead of as an assistant coach. Sam Mitchell was a great mentor for Kevin Garnett throughout his career and also won Coach of the Year as the head coach for the Toronto Raptors. That said, he has been criticized for the lack of development of former Number 1 pick Andrea Bargnani, which doesn’t help his case to be the long term coaching candidate in Minnesota.
When Kevin Garnett was brought in at the trade deadline last season, no one would’ve imagined that this season would hold such emotional value. KG was brought in to serve as a mentor for the young guys on the roster. Now many will turn to Garnett as the emotional leader and ignitor of this team moving forward. The Timberwolves need Garnett more than ever. Garnett lived through the Malik Sealy tragedy and you have to imagine, this one carries just as much weight. Kevin understands what Flip was trying to do in Minnesota. He wanted to win a championship. I think its safe to say, KG will not be satisfied until the Timberwolves bring home a ring.
The Franchise cornerstones, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns, will have tremendous pressure on them to help see Flip’s vision through, but you have to believe they have greater ties and greater passion to turn this organization around. This season was beginning to feel like a year to develop with low expectations. But the desire to win immediately for Flip is growing by the day. It will be interesting to see these two players become leaders as Flip helped bring them and had tremendous faith in both players.
As the Wolves kick off a new season against the Lakers tonight, mentalities have shifted. Flip was a man who was entirely humbled and had a great love for the Timberwolves. The 2015-2016 season will forever be known as the season dedicated to Flip.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Saunders family. Lakers vs Wolves in LA tonight. Here is to another season.