Wetmore: Next Wolves crossroads requires resolving Love situation
MINNEAPOLIS - The Wolves introduced Flip Saunders as head coach at a news conference Friday.
With one major decision out of the way, another looms. Kevin Love's situation is a major crossroads for the Wolves organization.
In my outsider opinion, the Wolves are left with no choice but to cultivate a trade market (an easy task) and trade Love for the best available package of picks and players.
Saunders and Wolves majority owner Glen Taylor weren't all that interested in talking specifics when it came to Love. That's not particularly surprising.
Taylor said that naming Saunders the coach was not his first preference, and he said that he hopes to once again have a separate head coach and president of basketball operations someday. For now, Saunders is uniquely positioned as a man with final say over personnel decisions and on-court decisions, as well as a partial ownership stake in the organization. That's power that nobody -- not Doc Rivers, not Gregg Popovich, not Erik Spoelstra, not Phil Jackson -- in the NBA enjoys.
Saunders was more interested in talking about establishing a 'we culture' and a winning culture, like the ones present in San Antonio or Miami. Those teams have superstars, sure, but so does Oklahoma City, Saunders said. Whether or not it's that simple is certainly up for debate. But what was clear Friday both during the press conference and in a side session with reporters afterward is that Saunders preferred to talk about the team as a whole rather than one player, even if that player has risen to one of the handful of super-elite players in the NBA.
"It's very interesting because when I look at the teams that are in the playoffs and look at successful teams and what those teams are, they're teams that don't believe in what I call the 'lone warrior,'" Saunders said. "No matter who it is, on any team, it's about the team, not about the individual.
That was a theme in one of Phil Jackson's books, "11 rings: The Soul of Success." Of course, Jackson had the privilege of coaching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and later Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Still, the culture of the team seemed to be an undying focus for Jackson.
"The decision that was made here, we made that decision on what was best for our team," Saunders said. "We do not take into consideration what type of impact it would have on any of our players."
Taylor paid lip service to the same point: No player is important enough to base franchise-level decisions on.
"I just think that when you have a team, you never know what trade opportunities or those things that might happen in the future, no matter which coach you bring in," Taylor said. "I just think you get the best coach that you can get with the team that you have and you move forward and you make the other decisions as you move along."
Neither man is required to tell the whole truth publicly amid this important time. It may have been more surprising if they addressed every yet-unanswered question surrounding the organization.
One surprising claim made Friday was that Love's situation did not impact the coaching search in a meaningful way.
That cannot be true.
Again, this comes from an outside observer, but there's no doubt in my mind the uncertainty whether or not Love will be on the roster -- or perhaps the certainty that he will not be -- negatively impacted Minnesota's ability to hire its top choices for head coach.
"When it really came down to it, as we talked to candidates, it was not their decision," Saunders said. "When you go out to interview individuals, it's a two-way street. It's not just them saying 'well we'll take the job' or not. We make the decisions on who we want to hire and who we don't."
He said the candidates they spoke with all understood the NBA landscape is ever-changing.
"Maybe college people that might have been [a factor], but outside of that, everyone knows, as Glen said, this team can change drastically in three days."
Actually, this franchise could change in one day, with one phone call. When one NBA executive offers that irresistible trade package to the new head coach and president. When Saunders is offered the promise of a bright, albeit Love-less future, the Wolves will undergo a much more drastic change than the one officially announced Friday.