To say most league observers expected this to happen at some point is a profound understatement. Saunders was inherited from the wreckage of the previous regime, and president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas — hired in 2019 — was always rumored to be interested in Finch. The two have a history going back to their shared time in Houston, where Finch was one of the best-regarded coaches in the G League for Houston’s Rio Grande Valley affiliate.
Like so many things in this woebegone franchise’s lackluster history, Ryan Saunders’ fairy tale turn as Timberwolves head coach proved to be exactly that. Saunders had known for several weeks that he was in trouble as the losses mounted, sources told The Athletic. Players openly wondered about Saunders’ job security and it only seemed to be a question of whether he would make it to the end of the season. The answer came not long after a 103-99 loss to the Knicks in New York on Sunday night in a meeting with Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas.
The fit between Saunders and Russell appeared to strain as this season went along, with Russell jawing at his young coach during some games. Perhaps sensing that the hammer was getting close to dropping, Saunders made some changes to the offense two weekends ago in an effort to jumpstart a unit that ranked 28th in the league in offensive efficiency.
In making the move for Finch over Vanterpool, it is clear that Rosas believes, right or wrong, that Finch is the more qualified candidate. It has been speculated in league circles over the last two years that Finch has been atop Rosas’s wishlist should he ever have to make a coaching change. By hiring him now, Rosas avoided any potential bidding war with other teams in the offseason, which appears to be motivation enough to weather the storm that will come from those in the coaching fraternity who believe something was in place with Finch before Saunders was dismissed and from those advocating for more opportunities for coaches of color.
One common thought in league circles was that Minnesota would wait till the offseason to pull the trigger, when it would be easier to excise Finch from Toronto and he’d have a full summer to prepare. Additionally, waiting might have perversely benefited the Wolves because, in the short term, they could embrace tanking to preserve their top-three-protected lottery pick from the Russell trade.
What do you hear most often, if you're playing word association, what words would be associated with Finch? Offense, creativity, you know, ingenuity, those kinds of words, I think, are what you hear with him a lot. You know, he's an envelope pusher.
Damian Lillard: How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool and he’s right there on the bench... and has been in front office SUCCESSFULLY and on the front of a bench of a winning team SUCCESSFULLY (7 years) ... and also has played a major role in the development of a dominant backcourt smdh!
During Monday's introductory news conference, Rosas welcomed the former Toronto Raptors assistant to try to turn things around after firing Ryan Saunders following Sunday's loss to the Knicks in New York. "The things that he's done coaching all around the world at different levels, those experiences, I think, are very relevant to our current game," Rosas said. "We play a very international game in the NBA, and the experience that Chris has, the perspective that he has, the time that he's been a head coach outside of the NBA, an assistant in the NBA as well, I think those perspectives, those expertise are really important for our organization on both sides of the floor."
"I would like to be judged by wins and losses. That's what it's about," Finch said. "This is about winning, and hopefully we can stack some wins on top of each other. Beyond that, we want to see the growth of our young players, and we want to develop an identity. I think if we can accomplish all three, that's a home run, if we get two out of three, I think that's a great step forward."
Shams Charania: The Minnesota Timberwolves are hiring Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch as the new head coach on multiyear contract, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Timberwolves asked permission to the Raptors on assistant coach Chris Finch and are proceeding on hiring him as head coach to replace Ryan Saunders, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Hiring a coach off another staff during the season is uncommon, but Toronto wouldn't stand in the way of Finch's chance to become a head coach now. Finch had success as a G-League head coach, and has interviewed for several head coaching jobs in recent years.
“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” said Rosas. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Minnesota Timberwolves have dismissed coach Ryan Saunders, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Timberwolves won’t immediately name an interim coach tonight, sources said. Minnesota has dropped 24 of 31 games to start the season, leaving them with the worst record in the NBA.
Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas is expanding the search for a head coach, but that doesn’t mean Rosas has eliminated interim coach Ryan Saunders from getting the job. Rosas will interview at least four candidates — Miami assistant Juwan Howard, Portland assistant David Vanterpool, New Orleans associate head coach Chris Finch and Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham — a source confirmed to the Star Tribune. Even though Rosas is interviewing multiple people for the position, Saunders remains a strong candidate for the job.
Of the four candidates Rosas is interviewing, Finch, 49, is an intriguing one given his ties to Rosas. The two worked together previously in Houston where Finch was an assistant coach from 2011 to 2016. He served one season in Denver before joining the staff in New Orleans the last two seasons. Prior to becoming an assistant in Houston, Finch also worked two seasons as the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston’s G-League affiliate. Rosas played a big part in developing talent and implementing systems and style of play in the G-League when he was with Houston. Finch and the Vipers won a G-League title in 2009-10.
Dane Moore: Gersson Rosas on Ryan Saunders’ status as interim head coach: “We’ve begun a process... I’m doing my due diligence. It’s a major objective we want to address.” Rosas went on to commend the jobs both Ryan Saunders and Scott Layden did this past season.
Dane Moore: Ryan Saunders spoke today about beginning to put in plans for next season + looking at how to best improve the team. Dario Saric even said Saunders might come out to work w/ him in Croatia. “I’m operating as I’m going to do a job until they tell me not to do a job.” — Saunders
All signs point to Minnesota retaining Ryan Saunders as its coach. This is despite the Wolves’ 14-19 record and fade from playoff contention since Saunders replaced Tom Thibodeau on Jan. 6.
Former Chicago Bulls and Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg told ESPN on Monday that he'd prefer to stay in coaching -- at either the college or pro level -- rather than return to an NBA front-office role. "My passion is in coaching," Hoiberg said, "and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead."
Hoiberg said he will keep an open mind in searching for his next basketball job. "I am not prioritizing one over the other in respect to the NBA and college," Hoiberg said. "The jobs are so different that you cannot compare them, so I plan on evaluating whatever opportunities may come independently."
September 19, 2021 | 7:06 am EDT Update
Clutch Points: Isaiah Thomas is expected to work out with the Golden State Warriors on Monday, sources tell @markhaynesnba. pic.twitter.com/aXdiqpdJcl
Lakers legend Pau Gasol, Marc’s older brother, recently sat down with Spanish newspaper Marca as he discussed the future of his sibling. Pau’s response was cryptic, but it is clear that he is hoping that Marc returns to Spain: “Marc has earned the freedom and flexibility to make his own decision and he will do so when he decides,” Pau said (h/t Sam Yip of Fan Nation). “I know he has a lot of enthusiasm for Basquet Girona, a club in which I am also involved as vice president. He is in a different situation, because he is five years younger than me. We will see what he decides to do this season and later, I am also waiting.”
“I’ve been on him about things I need from him,” Billups said. “I said, ‘Nurk, I know you are going to be a free agent, and I understand you have to have a great year. You need me for you to have a great year, and I need you for us to have a good year. We need each other, right?’ “I’m going to give him every opportunity to have a great year. Because if he has a great year, that means we are a pretty damn good team. Because he is a good player. But that means he has to be focused and be in shape. Because you are only going to play as many minutes as you are physically able. If you are out there tired, uh-uh, come on, gotta get you out. There are good players behind you.”
It is unclear exactly what Nurkic and his role will look like under Billups, but to hear Nurkic talk, Billups has given him a vision of being more involved on both ends. Billups has been careful not to publicly define roles, but in general, he has preached that the offense will include more ball movement. “I just want to feel wanted, and I think I just need more support, and what I mean by that is different playing style, more inside-out game, more chance,” Nurkic said. “More chance to be successful and the position where they put you in. It’s all about the coach and where they put you, and I think Chauncey has figured out that certain people are going to have one to three points less, but the team is going to be way more successful with ball movement and playing together and be more fun. Even at the defensive end.”
Virtus Bologna’s win over LBA newcomer Tortona in SuperCup Quarterfinal game yesterday night was overshadowed by a serious injury occurred to Nigerian center Ekpe Udoh, who appears to have injured his patellar tendon in a no-contact situation. Former Fenerbahce center was taken out of the court in a stretcher and after the game coach Sergio Scariolo confirmed the seriousness of the injury, adding that the team will look for a replacement in the market: “He’s our cornerstone, both on attack and on defense. It’s dramatic, I hope that it serves to understand that you need to respect the players. Here there are stickers on the court everywhere, in the NBA it’s not the case. We will look for a replacement”.
“We are in shock and worried,” Scariolo said after the game on Udoh’s injury. The Italian coach spoke against the use of slippery stickers on basketball floors which have often caused players to hurt themselves.
However, if you ask former Suns forward Matt Barnes, the Suns aren’t favored to make it back to the Finals. In an episode of “The Jump”, Barnes had this to say. (via Fadeaway World, NBA on ESPN YouTube): “Love CP! Love Book! Experience is the best teacher and they have that now. But if the West is healthy, it’s going to be loaded, and it’s going to be tough [for the Suns] to get out. I wouldn’t bet on them, with all due respect. Like I said, great young team, one of the best floor generals we’ve ever seen in the history of this game. But again, a lot of things lined up perfect for them to do what they did last year.”