Video: Flip Saunders' Introductory Press Conference
Video: Flip Saunders' Introductory Press Conference
Editor's Note: Flip Saunders, the Wolves' all-time wins leader as a head coach, was introduced as the team's new President of Basketball Operations on Friday at Target Center. Below is a full transcription of today's press conference with Saunders and team owner Glen Taylor.
Glen Taylor's Opening Statement
"Thank you very much. I'm very proud and happy to announce that the Timberwolves organization has come to agreement to hire Flip (Saunders) as the President of Basketball Operations. It's a five-year contract that we would hope would extend beyond that (in the future), but those are the terms. And it has been also mentioned, probably the one unusual thing is that Flip is also coming in as a limited partner as I have other limited partners for the Timberwolves. So his commitment here is a big one and long range look at the team.
Let me just talk about some things that I think are well known, but just some background, probably how we got here today. When I bought the team one of the first guys that wrote to me was a fellow named Flip Saunders. He wrote me a letter and said 'if there's some space in here for me, I'm very interested'. He was in Sioux Falls, I was in Mankato. I responded and he drove over to Mankato and I can remember us sitting in the office. If you know Flip at that time he brought what was called the Playbook: History of Basketball, all of the opportunities that go forward. We had a great day of talking about basketball and how he might fit in.
From that conversation Flip was offered a job as GM of the team. Because I was new, he was new, we spent a lot of time talking, getting to know each other about things even up and above basketball. Our families got to know each other very well. And then a decision was made that Flip would become the coach. We had already established a very close relationship so when he was coach here we continued on that close relationship. We talked about all facets of basketball and got to know each other.
Now as Sid Hartman would remind me, I've made a lot of great decisions in my life., and a lot of things in business that have worked well. Occasionally I've made a wrong decision and perhaps supporting Flip leaving our organization as coach, is one of those things I've done wrong. But in the mean time, Flip has gone out and stayed in the NBA, coached for some other teams, seen some other organizations, seen some other systems and I think that has added great value to his experience. With all that experience in the league I just think that he can bring that as part of his overall philosophy back to our organization and make it a better organization.
One other thing I want to comment before I turn it over to Flip. Flip and I have remained friends as he has been at Detroit and Washington. We talked occasionally, just talk about basketball and what's going on in the league. We've kept that relationship. This past year on a couple of occasions, Flip and I had met, but it had more to do with I had made the announcement that I thought that I should start looking for a limited partner who would be the potential general partner of someone who would keep the team in Minnesota. Flip approached me about that and if he could assist me in that, in finding some people, that he had some contacts and he had some people contacting him. He brought me together with some potential investors. So that's the relationship we have. I think Flip will remind me of one day in our talk he said to me 'Glen are you really interested in selling this team? You sound pretty excited about it.' And I said, 'not really, I really do like it.' He said, 'You know, I'd really like to stay here. I would really like to work with you.' And from that I think probably in the back of my mind and his mind we started to at least think about the possibility of going another direction.
And I would say based upon that, I have made the decision not to sell the team at all. Matter of fact, I have made an offer to my limiteds who have said that they might want to get out, that I offered to buy them out. So we're going to go the opposite direction. Rather than me having a smaller interest in the team, it would be a larger interest in the team. Any limiteds that are in a place in life where they want to take advantage--and they'll make a healthy reward on their investment in the Timberwolves--but want to take advantage of that, I will personally buy them out. But I would also say, as Flip is coming in as a limited (partner), that I still think that it would be in our interest to find some other people who live in Minnesota, who have a keen interest in our state and this organization, to come in as limiteds. So we're open to doing that.
So with that background, I think I will turn it over to you, Flip."
Flip Saunders' Opening Statement
"First of all I will say this, when I left the house, my son Ryan said, 'Dad keep your comments SportsCenter comments. Short and Sweet.' So I'm not going to try and take up too much time. I do want to thank Glen for this opportunity. You know it's really interesting because last night when I was thinking about writing down a few notes. I thought 40 years ago when I came here as an 18-year-old skinny kid playing in Minnesota, I'm sure that Patrick Reusse, Charley Walters and Sid Hartman, Bob Sansevere all of them thought 'how is this guy going to play in the Big Ten.'
The biggest thing about that, those are relationship t hat were formed that became long lasting relationships. And as I said to Ryan, I said 'that's what makes Minnesota so special.' Whether it's Pat Reusse of course when he covered us at the 'U', there were always talks. Sid Hartman, I don't know if it was legal or not, but he'd pick up me, Mychal Thompson, and Mark and we'd go to Oak Ridge and have a buffet. Or should I say destroy the buffet table out there on Sundays. So those are relationships that formed and have always lasted. Working for ESPN, when I'd go there and work they'd say, 'Well, where do you live at?' A lot of times, just other anchors and I say, 'I live in Minnesota.' They'd say 'Why Minnesota? You can live anywhere you want to live.' And I'd say 'Well, you don't really understand unless you're from Minnesota. You really don't get it. Even when it snows on May 3rd you really don't get it.' And the loyalty and the passion that the people have here is what always drives me back. And that's why I'm here today. I believe that I can help Glen Taylor and this franchise reach and exceed what we've done in the past. And that's very, very important.
Glen talked about our relationship and how it started and how things come pretty much full circle. I think what happens is that as me as a coach and as an individual, you also learn. And one of the first things I learned is that when I left Minnesota what I missed about it, I missed the relationship that I had with my owner. Talking to other coaches that was always the most important thing, is that you have an open relationship and a trust factor between the two. So that became extremely important to me in having that. And that's what I feel like we really have here.
There's no question that there's a lot of work ahead with this team. And what I mean by that is that when a team has been to the lottery for eight straight years and won 31 games, you have work to do. So we've got to roll up our sleeves and do that, but that's what Minnesota people do. Now we have talent, we have some good young talent but they by far have not reached their potential. And it is our job to get them to be in a situation to try and reach that potential. We want to bring in better talent for Coach Adelman and talent that fits his system, and fits the players that we have. Because I really believe that chemistry is always one of the most important things on a team being able to have success, and not have success. And we've had injuries but right now I think we all have to, Glen and I have talked about this, injuries right now is a league-wide thing. It is not just isolated to Minnesota or isolated to certain teams. And that's something that coming into this position as a President, that I want to really put myself not just in the basketball players and evaluation but hands on with everything in the organization and try to make it better. And is there a way to find out a way to make it better for our players to either prevent injuries, not get injured as much or get back on the floor more. That I don't know, but we've got to turn over every rock we can to try and find out and try to get that. I know the more that we can have players on the floor, the better opportunities that we will have as far as to have some success.
And success for us is based on getting into playoffs. Success is based on putting ourselves in a position where in the future that we can be a team that contends for NBA championship. And that's ultimately what every team's goal is. But you have to have the commitment from above, which Glen has shown that he has and the commitment within the organization to do that. And so that's what really brings a lot of excitement to me.
Two days ago I actually spoke to my daughter's leadership class, she's an assistant teacher. And one of the students asked me 'What has been your most exciting time in basketball?' And I said, 'Very ironic it was game 7 Sacramento. Best time I've ever had.' Beat Sacramento very ironic, the two coaches happen to be Rick Adelman and myself. Now we're teammates and we're together. And I look forward to working with Rick. I don't think there's a lot of organizations that they can say that they have two coaches, or two people in their organization that have over 1,600 wins in the NBA. Rick is going to be a Hall of Fame coach, one of the greatest coaches that has played. I look forward to trying to help him get the players he needs within his system to have the success that he is used to on a yearly basis.
I'm excited about the opportunity to create an atmosphere in our arena. I talked to some of our people in the organization that it's almost a circus type atmosphere. There's excitement when you walk in there. And then it becomes an arena that other people don't want to come in and play at. And you do that by having people that are successful, as far as on the floor."
Media Q&A Session with Saunders and Taylor
On the status of Rick Adelman...
Taylor: "Yes, I've talked to Rick Adelman, he is our coach. I do expect him to be back."
On if Flip is done with coaching...
Saunders: "Well as coaches, we always coach. You know we coach. I've been a coach the last year on ESPN. Right now as I said, Rick's our coach. I'm thrilled with the opportunity to work with him. And right now my main job is when we get out of here is get an office, get a phone and start getting players and calling the players that we have on our roster and talk to them."
On Saunders' interest in Timberwolves, NBA..,
Saunders: "The interesting thing is, I want to reiterate, Glen, how this started. About a year ago as Glen came out and said that he was looking to sell the team, we had a conversation and I said to him that I thought that I had some people that might have some interest. Now I want everyone to know here that Glen has had opportunities to sell this team. But the people that would probably want to buy this team, wanted to move the team. And as Glen told me his number one priority, that's why the team didn't go to New Orleans way back when was to keep this team here.
During our conversations as I had mentioned to Glen many times I always considered myself an NBA guy. Do I have passions for "the university"? There's no question I have passion. And at one time did I feel that I would maybe end my career coaching there? That did cross my paths. But as this whole process evolved and the conversation I had with Glen, I had great passion for this league. I spent a lot of time in this league and I'm very comfortable. And I feel that I can really leave an impact and a legacy in this league."
Importance of keeping it investment in Minnesota...
Taylor: "Well, I think this is one of those things that you don't plan on, you don't know is going to happen, it just evolves. Could this have happened a couple of years ago? Well no, because Flip was a coach out at Washington and he had other opportunities that he was enjoying. This is not something I look back and thought was going to happen. But all of a sudden in talking to him about other things, about running the franchise, selling the franchise, I think my thinking just said 'Well wait a minute. Maybe there's another opportunity here that hadn't been presented to me before.' And started thinking about it in the direction it was going and it was just easy once I think both of us put our minds on it. We just saw that this was an obvious solution to let's just say a great opportunity for the state of Minnesota and the Timberwolves."
Saunders on his thoughts on player transactions/contracts this summer...
Saunders: "I think one, we have players that are under contract so we would buy those players at the contract. Kirilenko and Pek right now are under contract. As from what Glen has said, and since I've been in Minnesota hearing a lot, those players do like Minnesota and do want to remain here. So that's the number one priority I think. You have people that want to be in the organization.
We're going to be very open to no matter what it is. Whether it's trades, whether it's signing your own players, whether it's signing free agents, whether it's creating opportunities, different ways through the draft. Whatever we can to get better talent and help coach Adelman in his system. That's what we're committed to do. As a league, I mean everyone knows, let's be realistic, that luxury tax is a killer for anybody in the league. There's no one that's going to say that they want to go into the luxury tax. I think that it's a proven fact that you can be creative, you can get a team that can compete that doesn't have to go and be way over the luxury tax and pay those type of penalties.
But Glen is, I believe the commitment that Glen has is a commitment to the city to keep the team here and try to make this team a competitive team, a playoff team that can compete. And as somebody within the organization said, 'Hey, we have one goal and that's to make Glen happy.' And that's what would make Glen happy."
On the next big steps to improve the team...
Saunders: "One, contact the players that we do have. Contact those players. I want to talk to Coach Adelman again and I'm sure we'll start having daily talks. Or just as much as we can about what's happening. Evaluating our whole staff and what their roles are going to be. There's definitely going to be a lot of people who will have more expanded roles in what they're doing. And then player evaluation. We have Chicago (Pre-draft Camp) in a week and a half. And we start evaluating draft picks there. I've been very fortunate having worked at ESPN, that I have a lot of time off in between hits. We go into the Green Room where we've got 12 TVs and we're watching NBA games and college games. You've got a chance to see a lot of college players. So I think that has helped jump start a little bit.
Just the evaluation from top to bottom it's going to be a whirlwind. That's why I said before it's to roll the sleeves up and get after it."
On the biggest concerns, needs for team...
Saunders: "I think being at ESPN, I've studied all teams in the last year because that's what I was paid to do, that was my job. But being here in Minnesota, yeah I see them a lot. I think the number one thing as I mentioned before, somehow we have to keep people healthy. And I don't know if there's a magic solution to that but we've got to try and see what we can do in order to do that. But I'd say more than anything, we need to get a balanced roster. I think we have somewhat of an unbalanced roster at positions. Get some players that maybe have interchangeable parts so I think that's going to be the biggest thing."
On the possibility of Flip becoming future general partner...
Taylor: "No I think what our commitment is, is that we're partners. I think that my responsibility as the general partner is the money part. I think that's my part. I think his part of the partnership is his knowledge understanding of the league, keeping up with the changes in the league. I've been really involved as chairman of the board and working on the labor relations committee of the future direction of where the league's going to go. So it's going to change. It might be helpful that I know something about where the league is going, but Flip's been so involved with that. I think our partnership is we both have a little bit different responsibilities. Mine is more the financial, the long-term commitment. His is the okay I've got to understand the league, I have to understand the coach--which he understands very well; the coach we have -- and get the right players here. I think the evaluation of the players as things change in the league and different types of players are needed. I have complete confidence that Flip is on that and will know the appropriate players to bring to this team."
On if it's more of a homecoming or fresh start...
Saunders: "Well, homecoming because you see people that you've seen in the past. You know sitting here, we have a lot of reporters, media people that I've dealt with that have been very kind to me in comments but also very critical at times. But that's part of what the whole business is and sometimes it being critical, I've always said those have been the best friends because they've helped me become better at what I do. I think that's what makes this comfortable coming home. You have a comfort level and as I said with some of the new media people, whether it's Jerry, I don't have as much of a relationship but that will continue to grow.
Coming back here and seeing familiar faces makes it easier. Is it a homecoming, I don't know. My house has always been here, so I never really left. I still go get coffee at the same place and all those other things the same, so that hasn't changed."
On what suit did Saunders have when he came here 40 years ago...
Saunders: "Unfortunately there are probably pictures that would show that. Things change a little bit, I've changed in time but I believe that I'm still the same person I was 40 years ago. You know my work ethic, my character, my commitment to Minnesota and to the people. I said before on criticism, I've always been challenged by sometimes being criticized. I remember four years in Minnesota, every summer Sid Hartman wrote a column that I was never going to play the next year. So he helped motivate me to be there and play that following year."
After being fired, Saunders on his relationship with Glen through the years...
Saunders: "I think, number one, you have to understand this is a result league and if you don't have results that's what happens. Sometimes what happens is the expectations that you have -- at that time we had high expectations. What happened is that just because something happens in business doesn't mean that it should destroy your relationships. When things first happened, you're hurt a little bit, but it didn't take long to know the relationship that we had. And as I mentioned earlier, the longer I was away, the more I maybe appreciated the relationship and maybe Glen did too. And that's why I think the relationship grew stronger as the years progressed. We talked openly about the team, his team, my team, about the league and where the league was going. He gave me a lot of insight because of him being the chairman of the board of the NBA. I tried to give him insight being at ESPN, the things that I hear. I believe a good relationship from that standpoint. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be here. I feel good about where our relationship has been the last 20 years."
On the decision to move in a new direction...
Taylor: "I don't think I can answer it quite that way. I just think that making decisions like that there's just a lot of things, it isn't one thing. It wasn't for me one thing that did it. The way I processed it, you look at the situation, there were a lot of good things that happened and then there's some things that you can see that you can improve upon it. And then after a while you have to look at what are the other options that are out there. So it was more like that. As I sort of said in my announcement, I really appreciate everything that David has done for our organization. I appreciate that. But the final result was I thought it was time to make a change and I think we can move forward, It would be hard for me to say that there was one little example that pushed me across the line."
Saunders on his ability to adapt from coach to general manager position...
Saunders: "I don't think my view will change as I said, as a coach you always coach. I think that's one of the positives of talking to Rick. We talked about it being a positive having two guys that are into coaching; we can bounce things off each other. I know what he's going through as a coach. That will be very beneficial for both myself and for Rick. We're a team moving forward. I don't think my view is going to change.
I do believe that having been out a year at ESPN, I was very comfortable there. Those people treated me really well. I enjoyed what I was doing. I think that maybe helped prepare a little bit more that you can move on in a different direction. So with through our conversations with Glen the opportunity came, as he said it became just the right fit."
On the remodeling of Target Center...
Taylor: "Let me say that I'm very positive about that remodeling project. Our staff has been meeting with the city staff over a period of time kind of behind the scenes working very hard on that. I have personally met with the Mayor a number of times. I would just report at this time that we are still working, but I would report that I am very positive in the direction that we are going. I think it is another one of the hopefully good stories yet to come."
On the transition of coach to general manager role...
Saunders: "Well it's a balance. You have to balance both. As a coach you focus on the short term. As a president in charge, you focus on both the short-term and long-term. I've been very fortunate in that whether I started in the CBA where I was president and general manager and coach or whether it was here with Glen and even my time with my other organizations, I was very much involved with a lot of the personnel talk and different things. I don't see that being very difficult at all. I look forward to the opportunity and excited about it. I do feel that with some of the support that we have that we can make a difference. I think that's important."
On the decision making structure with Adelman, Glen and Flip...
Saunders: "I could say that Glen will be the referee. I think anyone that has worked with Glen with any of his businesses has to understand that Glen is very much an information gatherer. He wants information from all parties and wants information -- good, bad and different. From that as a group you make a collective decision. I think that will continue to be how we operate. It has worked pretty well. The biggest thing in decisions that I've always said is your evaluation. I believe that's one of my strengths. Whether it was a coach or whatever, was my ability to evaluate players. And not only evaluate players but how they will fit into the system. There are some players that can play extremely well in some coaches system and some can't. I think that'll be the big key."
On the optimism for the future...
Saunders: "It's very interesting because when I listen to every non-playoff team and they have the season ending meetings or they've gotten rid of a coach and they've hired a coach, they all say we've got great young talent, we've got cap space, we've got flexibility, and the future is bright. That's what everybody says. My thing is we've got work to do. We've got some good pieces, but we've got to get those players better to reach their potential as I said earlier. We've got a lot of work to do and if things fall into place, things can happen. We've proven here in the past when we've made a jump in the past from a 20-win season to a 40-win season. So that has happened. But a lot of things have to happen. I think everybody always has optimism but you also have to be realistic. What breeds optimism and where it turns into being realistic is getting to work and things falling into place. I believe that we have people that will be able to do that. And that's the first step. But like I said, my first step is to find that desk and make sure that phone works."
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