The Minnesota Timberwolves lost Sunday to the New York Knicks to fall to league-worst 7-24 this season. That defeat turned out to be the last straw for the management and the team announced shortly after the game that they have fired coach Ryan Saunders.
What’s more, they already have a replacement in line. Toronto Rtors assistant Chris Finch is expected to be named their new coach, according to Shams Charania from The Athletic. The Wolves’ press release stated that a formal announcement was to arrive on Monday.
The son of the late Flip Saunders, Ryan got his start in the NBA as an assistant to the Washington Wizards and was on the bench in DC from 2009-2014. He then took an assistant job with the Timberwolves and was eventually appointed interim coach after Tom Thibodeau was sacked in 2019. After this season, he signed a contract to take the job permanently, and at the age of 33 he was the youngest head coach in the league. .
In a little less than two full seasons of play, the Timberwolves went 43-94 under the Saunders. They finished with the third worst record in the league last season – eventually winning the lottery and taking Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft – and had the worst record so far this season before his firing.
At one level or another, Saunders was in an impossible situation. There was almost total roster wrapping during his tenure, and more games lost to injury than you can count. When Karl-Anthony Towns has only played 45 games the last two seasons in total, there is only so much you can do. Still with such results, it is no surprise that the front office eventually decided to go in a different direction.
They will now turn to Finch, the highly regarded Rtors assistant who was a frontrunner for many jobs this offseason. Finch began his coaching career abroad in 1997 and has been on an NBA bench since 2011 when he was hired by the Houston Rockets. The president of basketball operations in Houston at the time was Gersson Rosas, who now runs the Wolves’ front office.
Finch is highly respected for his work on the offensive side of the ball, and Rtors coach Nick Nurse has called him “one of the best offensive minds in the NBA.” In an interview with The Athletic last year, Finch noted his affinity to play fast and try to be unpredictable.
It will be interesting to see what he can do with a Wolves team that has a lot of talent but who has not been able to put things together. Of course, injuries are a big reservation here, but they are ranked No. 28 in offense this season and score only 105.7 points per game. 100 possessions.