Former Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Ryan Saunders to Join Northwestern-St. Paul as Adjunct Faculty

By Greg Johnson on Monday, November 8, 2021

ST. PAUL – Ryan Saunders, the former head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves professional basketball franchise, has been hired as an adjunct instructor at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (UNW) for the Spring 2022 semester. Saunders, whose family name has been well known in Minnesota for decades, will teach Sports Leadership, a two-credit course in the College of Behavioral & Natural Sciences.

Saunders led the Timberwolves as head coach from 2019-2021 and has 12 years of NBA coaching experience. Prior to being named Minnesota’s head coach, Saunders was an assistant coach with two NBA teams. After growing up in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, Ryan was a captain on the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team while earning an undergraduate degree in sports management. Saunders continued his academic journey after his playing days, concurrently pursuing a master’s degree in applied kinesiology at Minnesota while serving the Gophers men’s basketball team as a graduate manager under then-head coach Tubby Smith.

The Sports Leadership course at Northwestern is designed to provide students with opportunities to develop moral and ethical values and philosophical skills through the exploration of sports management issues and organizational behavior. The course curriculum, written by Physical Education, Health, Kinesiology, and Sports Management chair Brad Ruiter, is designed with a local professional coach or front office executive in mind, given that individual’s unique perspective into applicable topics in the industry. Saunders certainly fits that bill, as well as the mission of UNW to equip students to grow intellectually and spiritually in order to serve effectively in their professions and give God-honoring leadership in the home, church, community, and world.

Ruiter, who served as the Timberwolves’ Vice President of Communication prior to his current role at Northwestern, made the connection between Saunders and the university. “Ryan has always been an incredible mix of maturity, kindness, professionalism, and Christ-like example in our professional relationship, our friendship, and every aspect of his life. “When looking at who should teach a class at UNW in Sports Leadership, Ryan is the definition of what I want our students to exemplify when they pursue a career in sports. He is uniquely qualified to offer our students his insights to make them more prepared for life, and we are fortunate to have him at Northwestern.”

“I look forward to bringing the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained throughout my career1/ to the students at Northwestern,” said Saunders. “At the same time, I look forward to working alongside the next generation of leaders—individuals who will lead our sports franchises, small businesses, and local ministries—as we grow together and focus on what’s most important.”


University of Northwestern – St. Paul (UNW) is a nondenominational Christian university in St. Paul, Minn. With a biblical worldview integrated into all programs, UNW provides a unique educational experience for students who want to combine faith and education. Northwestern offers 75+ areas of undergraduate study, seven master’s degrees, and online and early college programs. Northwestern Media, a ministry of the university, owns and operates 23 Christian radio stations throughout the Midwest with a total listenership of more than 1.35 million listeners. Visit unwsp.edu for more information.