When the Timberwolves announced, Ryan Saunders will stay with the team as the head coach, he became the youngest head coach in the NBA, at the age of 33. But his age shouldn’t be mistaken for inexperience. Ryan Saunders had 10 years of NBA coaching experience at that moment. He was an assistant in Washington from 2009 to 2014, and in Minessota from 2014 to 2019.
That’s only his official NBA experience. Being a coach’s son, Saunders has been around basketball all his life. A lot of basketball. His father, Flip Saunders, loved watching film at night so young Ryan would watch it with him and fall asleep on the couch in the wee hours of the night. His father allowed him to sit in on coaches’ meetings – extremely valuable access not many people are privileged to. With all this privilege, Flip made sure Ryan understood and appreciated the good fortune he had, with a little help from Kevin Garnett.
Flip was coaching the Timberwolves in the Garnett era, so young Ryan Saunders was helping out around the team alongside his school duties. Being a quiet kid, KG took him under his wing, and Ryan became his ball boy. Ryan would rebound for KG during his workouts, and KG would tip him for every session.
Actually, KG tipped him for every task he’d have for Ryan – go get me this, I need that. Every time. Ryan’s parents found out and decided to incentivize him to save that money, so Flip told Ryan that he would match all the money he got as tips from KG if he deposited it in his bank account and saved it for college.
KG didn’t only do that. One of the loudest, wildest characters in NBA history also had a lot of appreciation and humility. After every shooting session, that could last up to an hour, he wouldn’t just tip Ryan. He would tell him “ok, now it’s your turn” and then Ryan would shoot, and Kevin Garnett would rebound for a high-school kid for 15-20 minutes.
They bonded so much that Garnett wanted to give him his green Porsche for Ryan’s 16th birthday. “My parents shut that down pretty quick.” Being the quiet kid, Saunders didn’t fight it too much, as he preferred not to be noticed and Minessota winters aren’t the perfect condition for a Porche.
From these stories, it’s easy to tell that KG and Ryan share a special bond. If you wanna see more of their relationship, peep the NBA on TNT exclusive Youtube video below:
Ryan Saunders’ Lowe Podcast interview was used in writing this story.