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."
February 24, 2021 | 9:31 pm EST Update
February 24, 2021 | 9:06 pm EST Update
Harrison Faigen: Frank Vogel says he hasn’t looked at the second-half schedule in depth yet, but says he isn’t too worried about the difficulty of it. “I know every team in the league is playing 72 games.” (depending on cancellations, this may not be true)
Jovan Buha: I asked Frank Vogel pregame if the Lakers are looking at a specific position or player archetype with their two empty roster spots. His answer: “We’re just looking at what players are available. I’m not gonna discuss any types of needs that we’re discussing internally.”