Just days before the 1995 NBA draft, Kevin Garnett was on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine with the text READY OR NOT…
It was for the first time in 20 years that a high school player would be drafted in the NBA, Kevin was so darn good to pass but a very risky move to do. Minnesota was a small expansion team struggling ever since it joined the NBA in 1989. Flip Saunders, Minnesota’s new GM, took the gamble and drafted Kevin Garnett as Minnesota’s 5th overall pick. It was a bold move for a new GM and a new team looking for stability and identity. This has been Flip’s lasting legacy – he was never afraid to take risk and learn.
Kevin Garnett turned out to be what everybody expected. And even on Garnett’s aging 39-year-old body, Saunders signed him to a two-year deal. A move some of the coaches and GM found mindboggling as they scratched their head in disbelief. When everyone turned their backs against Chauncey Billups, Flip molded him to be a perfect player, when everyone thought Kevin was a bust, Flip gave him the freedom to be who he is and Garnett blossomed to be a good player. When his CBA team don’t have enough funds to get the right players, he took the team to as it is, and made them title contenders, winning championships and coach of the year honors. This is Flip Saunders, the man who at age 60 gave mostly of his life to the game of basketball. He took all the challenges that was presented in front of him and took everything on his own time and paced.
Small steps could lead to greater distances if put together. Flip drafted Karl Anthony Towns, got Andrew Wiggins on a trade for Kevin Love and still got Ricky Rubio even when everybody thought he was all hyped. With Kevin Garnett mentoring Towns, and Tayshaun Prince on Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota is moving on the right direction. Flip also signed veteran Andre Miller to mentor Ricky Rubio to give the team a mixed of veterans and young athletic teens willing to learn.
Minnesota and the basketball world lost a great mentor and a good coach.
READY OR NOT… it’s not just a text on a sports illustrated magazine that was published 20 years ago, it’s also a message to Minnesota and the NBA… the Timberwolves are coming.
RIP Flip Saunders, no soul is as brave as you. When everyone doubts, when everyone thought it’s a dead end. You took the risk and lead the way.