Finch aims to 'breathe some confidence' back into Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - When the Minnesota Timberwolves again decided to switch coaches, basketball division president Gersson Rosas reached out to one of the candidates he interviewed on the last search.
The dossier on Chris Finch was still fresh. The last round took place less than two years ago.
“I think the near misses motivated me even more. Everything happens for a reason. This is a place that I really want to be. This is the place I wanted to be in 2019, ”said Finch, who was introduced on Monday as the 14th Timberwolves coach after less than three months as assistant to the Toronto Raptors in 14 seasons.
Finch replaced Ryan Saunders, who was sacked on Sunday night after Minnesota lost in New York and fell 7:24 to the worst result in the league.
“We had a group that could build leads. We didn't have a group that could finish games and that has been very worrying for the last two weeks, ”said Rosas.
In addition to recently interviewing for the position, 51-year-old Finch also worked as an assistant in Houston (2011-16) while Rosas was an executive officer. Finch was also the coach in today's G League for the 2010 champions, Rio Grande Valley, the partner of the Rockets, which Rosas oversaw.
Rosas made Saunders a full-time coach soon after he was hired to lead the club on May 1, 2019. That decision was strongly supported by owner Glen Taylor and his awe of the late Flip Saunders, Ryan's father and by far the most successful coach in the history of the franchise. At this point, however, Rosas essentially said he was looking for more experience than the 34-year-old could offer. Saunders, who had replaced Tom Thibodeau, went 43-94.
“Ryan went out of his way to make us successful. I wish our fans could see how hard he worked day in and day out. It wasn't a lack of effort. It's just the reality, ”said Rosas.
The injuries, deals and virus logs that mixed up and watered down the rosters seemed like insurmountable barriers to success for Saunders. Since Rosas took over point guard D'Angelo Russell on February 6, 2020, he and Star Center Karl-Anthony Towns have only played together in five games.
That said, the Timberwolves have been 1-6 since Towns recently returned from COVID-19. One of those late rounds came last week in an eight-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers when Towns didn't shoot a single shot in the fourth quarter.
"He should be the focus of everything," Finch said.
Finch has 24 years of coaching experience, around half of which in Europe. The two-time All-American NCAA Division III at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania played for the Sheffield Sharks in the British Basketball League and later coached the same team from 1997 to 2003. Finch also coached the UK national team at the 2012 Olympics.
After his tenure with Houston, Finch spent a year as an assistant for Denver and three years at New Orleans. Finch is considered one of the league's top attacking strategists and has helped coaching stars like Nikola Jokić, Zion Williamson and James Harden throughout his career.
Toronto coach Nick Nurse said he assumed his team's game would be Finch's last on Sunday after the Timberwolves obtained permission from the Raptors to interview him and someone else's assistant in the rare midseason Hire teams. Rosas said he didn't decide to fire Saunders until Sunday.
Finch had replaced Nate Bjorkgren, who left the nurse's staff to become Indiana's trainer.
"I've always seen it as my job to get people to maximize their professional ambitions," said the nurse. "I don't think you would be here at all if I didn't."
Current Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool, who leads the team's defense, has these ambitions too. One of Vanterpool's former students with Portland, Star Guard Damian Lillard, was among many NBA players who had commented on Vanterpool, who is black, not getting the job, at least temporarily. Fink is white. Rosas is Latino, one of the few minorities in front office roles in the league.
"Everyone who knows me knows how important diversity is to me," said Rosas, adding, "Unfortunately in the middle of a season you are really at the mercy of the teams when it comes to who can be available."
Ryan Saunders ranks seventh out of 13 on the Timberwolves' all-time percent winners list, ahead of Bill Musselman, Randy Wittman, Bill Blair, Sidney Lowe, Kurt Rambis and Jimmy Rodgers. Only Flip Saunders, who held the job from 1995 to 2005 and again in the 2014-15 season, has held that position for more than three years.
After losing to the Knicks before Saunders was fired, Towns told reporters he was seeking stability for the franchise, which had little of it in the league for over three decades.
"I want to build my legacy here to win with the wolves, and I'll do whatever I can to build, step by step, brick by brick, and build a culture that goes on to stand here for a long time," Towns said .
His newest trainer wants that too.
"I think we can give the squad some confidence back," said Finch, "and these guys may find some joy."
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