Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders reflects on 'special bond' with Zach LaVine

Rob Schaefer
NBC Sports Chicago

When Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders recalls his time coaching Zach LaVine - as an assistant in Minnesota, for three seasons - basketball is far from the first thing that springs to mind.

"There's a lot of things I remember with Zach, because Zach is a player that I formed a special bond with," Saunders said. "A lot of the things I remember with Zach weren't necessarily basketball things. But how he treated people. He's one of the best guys I've been around at a young age, being mature in how he treated people within an organization, on the business side, everything, fans."

From there, personal anecdotes flowed out of Saunders. A walk around the Minnesota State Fair after LaVine's introductory press conference as a rookie. Watching proudly from the sideline as LaVine took part in the dunk contest at All-Star weekend. 

"He was in the gym two days before that in Minnesota, we were practicing his dunks," Saunders said. "And he was throwing off the wall and things like that."

"At night, I'd go back and call him up to help me and I'd see what he could do," LaVine said. "Cause I would go up there [to the gym] and gets shots up, and obviously practice dunking afterwards.

"Good memories. I enjoyed that part of my career."

Even after LaVine's tenure with the Timberwolves officially ended, that connection didn't - Saunders recalled his wedding day as evidence of that. To hear him tell it, LaVine's face was the first Saunders saw walking out of the church in which he married his wife, Hayley, back in 2017. LaVine had just been traded from the Timberwolves to the Bulls but was in attendance, anyway.

"He had raced from Chicago," Saunders said. "He had just gotten traded, but he still raced from Chicago. And his flight was delayed, but he had to be there. That's a moment that's always gonna stick with me."

"I told him I wasn't gonna miss it, there ain't no bad blood between us, I understand the business of basketball," LaVine said.

"They'll always be family to me."

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Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders reflects on 'special bond' with Zach LaVine originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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