Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas fired Ryan Saunders on Sunday, clearing the way for Minnesota to eschew an interim coach and move quickly toward hiring a full-time replacement.
Rosas informed Saunders of the decision after a 103-99 loss at the New York Knicks that left the Timberwolves at 7-24, the worst record in the NBA.
Rosas kept Saunders as his head coach after getting hired in May 2019, a process that included interviewing Finch for the job. Rosas and Finch have history back to their days together in the Houston Rockets organization.
Finch is expected to begin the job on Tuesday in Milwaukee with Saunders’ coaching staff in place, including associate head coach David Vanterpool and assistants Bryan Gates and Pablo Prigioni, sources said.
Finch has been an assistant coach with the Rockets, the Denver Nuggets, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Raptors, and he won a G League title with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in 2010. Toronto hired Finch in the offseason as Nick Nurse’s top assistant but wouldn’t stand in his way to accept a head-coaching job during the season, sources said.
No assistant coach has moved up to a head-coaching job with a new team during the season since the Memphis Grizzlies hired Lionel Hollins from the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009.
Rosas didn’t want to spend the season with an interim coach, sources said, instead wishing to maximize the development of a veteran core around All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, Malik Beasley, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, who is out with knee surgery.
Saunders was 43-94 as coach of the Timberwolves in his two-plus seasons. He was only able to coach his two All-Star players, Towns and Russell, in a total of five games since the franchise traded for Russell in February 2019.
Minnesota has been hit hard with injuries and COVID-19 issues this season. Russell played 20 games before recently undergoing left knee surgery that will sideline him for the next four to six weeks. Towns has only played 11 games this season between a wrist injury and contracting COVID-19.
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