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 or not. 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.
In the wake of considerable fan criticism of Saunders, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor had resisted calls to fire the coach while star Karl-Anthony Towns was out of the lineup with COVID-19. Taylor felt that Saunders deserved a chance to coach a team built almost entirely around Towns’ versatility before making such a big decision, sources said. But the Wolves were 1-7 since Towns returned Feb. 10, prompting Taylor to sign off on the move.
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.
May 12, 2021 | 9:14 am EDT Update
Marcus Thompson: Draymond said he loves the We Believe squad and what they did to spark the Warriors. He said Stack, Barnes, J-Rich are his guys. But … “We ain’t no We Believe 2.0. We got three championships.”
The resilience that helped Murray push through a trying professional start wasn’t entirely organic, though. It was molded through heartbreak; a glimpse at why he is the way he is only fortifies the belief that Murray is a person worth investing in. Years before he was a Spur, when even the thought of playing in the NBA was a different universe over, Murray faced a nightmarish adolescence, perfused by grief, terror and harrowing uncertainty. “It’s a story that’s never been heard before because I was in the streets for real, for real. I didn’t live off of nobody’s name,” he says. “It ain’t nothing to brag about. This s— is crazy when I wake up. I’m playing in the NBA. I’m on a video game. I have fans that buy my jersey. It still don’t feel real. I’ve been here five years; I feel like it’s a dream still.”
Every player who makes the NBA is a miracle. Every story is spruced with dabs of luck, a trail of serendipity, cosmic happenstance and mounds of adversity that were eventually cleared. For Murray, the mere fact that he’s still alive and free is its own tall tale. “I feel like the path I took to get here,” he starts, “what I had overcome, nobody ever overcame. Nobody’s ever been in my situation and made it to where I’m at today.”
“I’m in the stage right now where I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to tell my story to motivate the world and allow the world to know who Dejounte Murray is,” he says. “I’ve been real quiet and to myself about it, because it traumatized me. To this day it haunts me still. If you just think of the streets, a young kid in the streets, gangbanging, around drugs and just doing anything to get money, that was what it was. That’s what I was. I wouldn’t even say I was taught that. It was that or it was no way.”
When Murray was first arrested in middle school, it didn’t phase him. “Juvenile? That was nothing to me at 11 years old. I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t nervous, because I knew what to expect from going to jail.” His relationship with violence was frequent, felt in the body-numbing sensation that takes over after hearing a close friend or cousin has been fatally shot. His mother was in and out of prison and his father wasn’t always around. “I love my mom to death. My dad, me and him are still working on ways to become closer,” Murray says. “He wasn’t a deadbeat, but neither one of them were full-time parents.”
Looking back, Murray says that lifestyle was less a choice than a fate he was born into. “As crazy as it sounds, I’m not the only one in my family that went through the worst. My whole family, from my grandma … I heard stories about my great-grandma being a part of gangs and being crazy and doing the worst. You hear the word cycle, like it’s just a cycle; it’s passed down from generations. Everything was passed down to us. Selling drugs or doing whatever in the streets, it was normal to my family.”
Murray bounced from one apartment to the next, one hotel room to another. Couch to couch. His mother was kicked off state housing the first time he was arrested. Evictions weren’t uncommon. “I don’t even have a favorite cartoon. That’s how much I was in the streets. You know what I’m saying?” Murray says. “I can’t even tell my daughter I had a favorite cartoon growing up, and that f—- with me. That bothers me a lot.”