Ryan Saunders Rumors
The story is a window in Finch’s ability to hold players accountable without alienating them, something that will be critical for him in leading the Timberwolves, who have one of the youngest rosters in the league. It can be a delicate chore for coaches in the player-centric NBA. One misstep can get a coach in water hot enough that eventually leads to his exit. But one thing most Wolves players mention when they talk about a coach who parachuted in from outside the organization to take over for Ryan Saunders 31 games into the season is Finch’s ability to call players out for mistakes while also making them feel like he has their backs in tough moments.
What was it like being in the room with Glen Taylor and making your presentation? Arron Afflalo: I’ll tell you one thing: Mr. Taylor is really sharp. For 80 years old, he’s really sharp. He’s had over 80 businesses throughout his career. And he understands people. … As a person, I learned a lot from him. I was most thankful because he continuously gave me an opportunity when I came with failed investors, or failed opportunities. He literally worked with me hand in hand for nine months. He was as accessible as I needed him to be. And so, he was a normal guy. I didn’t feel pressure that I was speaking to the owner of a team. The first time we spoke, he said, ‘look, Arron – I don’t know you. I know of you. Your fighting spirit is unbelievable. And if you need anything from me when speaking to investors, please call me.’ He was very accommodating.
Why did you make a run at the Timberwolves? Arron Afflalo: That answer’s pretty easy. If this were any other team, I don’t think I would have had the equal fighting spirit. Knowing Ryan Saunders and knowing Flip Saunders very well, along with the George Floyd situation. … And then when you combine that with the space I was in with the hotel stuff, dealing with billionaire companies and billionaire people, it just created a natural synergy for Minnesota. I just felt that I could help, and be inspirational at the same time. I want to give a lot of credit to Ryan Saunders and Flip Saunders, and all that that city has been through, and Mr. Taylor, for that matter, recognizing that.
Darrel Wolfson: The initial plan was for (D’Angelo Russell) to rehab in Miami, which to me is interesting, presumably at some point, he’ll come back here to Minnesota. Will he return to the lineup this year? I think now that Ryan Saunders isn’t the coach, there’s a better chance of that happening.
Finch is the coach whom Rosas believes can turn things around for the team with the worst record in the league, and no amount of criticism for a lack of a formal search process that included any candidates of color or for the timing of hiring Finch right on top of firing Saunders was going to dissuade Rosas from making the decision he deemed to be necessary and right. “At the end of the day, where we’re at, we have to be realistic with ourselves,” Rosas said. “We got the worst record in the NBA. We’re struggling on both sides of the ball, and we really lacked the confidence as a result of that, and we can get the real change we needed by making the decision we made here. We needed to be bold and direct with this opportunity.”
At the time, Rosas was interested in adding Finch as an associate head coach, but the New Orleans Pelicans blocked that move, sources told The Athletic. So Rosas and Saunders made Vanterpool the top lieutenant and put him in charge of coordinating the defense. That Vanterpool was not elevated to interim coach when Saunders was fired after spending the last 18 months on staff was worrisome to some in the league. That there was no consideration of any candidates of color at all in a unilateral hiring process was of even larger concern. “Anybody that knows me knows how important diversity is to me, and it’s a big part of who I am and what I’m about,” Rosas said. “Our staff and the diversity we have speaks for itself.”