Timberwolves Fire Ryan Saunders, Hire Chris Finch

9:35am: Minnesota has officially announced Finch as its new head coach.

“I would like to thank Glen Taylor and Gersson Rosas for this incredible opportunity to be the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Finch said. “I look forward to working hand and hand with Gersson to build and lead a team that Timberwolves fans will be proud of. We have excellent pieces in place and I can’t wait to get to work.”


5:43am: The Timberwolves have parted ways with head coach Ryan Saunders, the team announced in a press release late on Sunday night. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Saunders’ dismissal.

“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said in a statement. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Wojnarowski, Minnesota already has a replacement lined up for Saunders, having reached a deal to hire Raptors assistant Chris Finch. The two sides are finalizing a multiyear contract that will make him the Wolves’ permanent head coach rather than an interim replacement.

Saunders, who took the reins on Minnesota’s sidelines following Tom Thibodeau‘s exit from the franchise in 2018/19, compiled a 43-94 (.314) record across parts of three seasons with the team. Those Wolves clubs were plagued by injuries, with franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns missing 54 of Saunders’ 137 games with the team, but underperformed even when healthy, finishing 14th in the West a year ago and ranking last in the conference so far this year.

Finch, meanwhile, has interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs in recent years, but will be getting an opportunity to run his own NBA team for the first time. He did have a stint as a G League head coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2009-11 and won an NBAGL title with the club before becoming an assistant for the Rockets from 2011-16. Rosas was part of Houston’s front office during that time, giving him a familiarity with Finch.

Since leaving the Rockets, Finch has been an associate head coach for the Nuggets (2016-17), Pelicans (2017-20), and Raptors (2020-21). He has a reputation of improving teams’ offenses, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic observes.

According to Wojnarowski, Finch is expected to officially begin the job on Tuesday when the Wolves play the Bucks in Milwaukee, and is expected to keep the team’s coaching staff intact for the time being. That staff includes associate head coach David Vanterpool and assistants Bryan Gates and Pablo Prigioni, Woj notes.

Hiring another team’s assistant coach after making an in-season coaching change is fairly unusual for an NBA team, according to Wojnarowski, who says it hasn’t happened since Memphis hired Lionel Hollins away from Milwaukee in 2009. Murphy suggests (via Twitter) that Toronto is probably more likely to promote a coach from the Raptors 905 once the G League season ends than to bring in someone from outside the organization to replace Finch on Nick Nurse‘s staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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50 thoughts on “Timberwolves Fire Ryan Saunders, Hire Chris Finch

  1. Buckman

    Obviously been in the works for awhile. Hope that Coach Finch has access to full squad to show what he can do. Saunders got a bit of a raw deal but maybe they didn’t like his leadership…injuries or not.

    • x%sure

      I would speculate that the blame, in order, go to
      1) owner Taylor
      2) environment of Minneapolis esp. after the trauma
      3) GM Rosas for an unsettling turnover, tho not unwarranted
      4) HC Saunders, too much (?) a fan of development & youth
      5) players, who keep being young or young-like, more than bad.

      As far as events go, choosing Wiggins over Butler a couple years ago, perhaps without realizing that choice was made, cursed them. Having as much problem with covid as any team has not helped. They did not take the consensus #1 draft prospect oops. And with the city under fire and some wanting to “defund the police”, it wasn’t a good time to have someone so locally focussed.

      • DeathbyDeathwest

        x%………. are you factoring George Floyd into why RYAN SAUNDERS was fired from the 2021 TIMBERWOLVES?!

        Sure. Next let’s hear tell of how BLM is holding Dame back from a title. Or how a leftist cabal forced the Wiz to trade for Westbrook.

        • x%sure

          That is a very long chain. I made a big mistake about the bubble, and redoubled it in a post later this page (:/)… but that first post still is right to me. The Floyd connection is way long and is not Floyd’s doing.

          But, the local environment was tougher on their NBA team than most teams operate in, and is probably another reason why they have underperformed getting Saunders fired. A bit unfairly, but not surprising. Wolves need a new start.

  2. Black Ace57

    I don’t think Saunders is a great coach, but I don’t think the team underperformed with him either. This is the result of making repeated bad decisions. When you upset Butler and have to trade him, trade a lot for Russell to be a star, and draft Edwards over Wiseman or Ball this is the result. I don’t anticipate the team suddenly being good with the new coach.

    • Sillivan

      In the near future of the West
      Nobody will be successful as Rockets or Wolves coach
      14th seed Rockets trade away the first round pick this year
      15 seed Wolves do the same

      Why did you trade away Firsts if you are the worst team?

      You’ve got to capitalize other worst teams first round picks

    • Bdd1967

      It can’t be any worse lol!! At least they got rid of a coach that should never have been in this position to begin with. Saunders got the job because of his last name. Overmatched from day 1!! Now if Taylor would sell and get his hands out of the mix, these guys might have a fighting chance to win.

      • specialfriedrice

        You forgot about that players in your team…it’s just not and will never be a winning combination.

    • twolvesaremynightmare

      Edwards was the right pick. His ceiling is as high as it gets. I really thought he would never even be a decent player in the NBA but like most people I had only seen him play a couple times so I was basing everything on the poor scouting reports. Turns out the scouting reports were mostly garbage. It’s been obvious all along that he’s an athletic freak but the negative reports about his mental makeup, attitude, & competitiveness could not have been more wrong. He has extreme confidence & he carries himself exactly how you’d expect a future mega-star to carry themselves. It’ll be obvious the end of next season that Edwards is on his way to top 10 status & the Timberwolves will become his team & most important his team will start regularly winning…

    • twolvesaremynightmare

      Saunders is a horrible head coach & Edwards was the right pick. His ceiling is as high as it gets. Before the season I really thought he would never even be a decent player in the NBA but like most people I had only seen him play a couple times so I was basing everything on the poor scouting reports. Turns out the scouting reports were mostly garbage. It’s been obvious all along that he’s an athletic freak but the negative reports about his mental makeup, attitude, & competitiveness could not have been more wrong. He has extreme confidence & he carries himself exactly how you’d expect a future mega-star to carry themselves. Kevin Garnett was the last player the wolves had that talks & acts like Edwards does. It’ll be obvious the end of next season that Edwards is on his way to top 10 status & the Timberwolves will then officially become his team & most important his team will start regularly winning…

  3. gcg27

    Not coach’s fault.. star player is overrated and never healthy.. how do you blame a coach for record in this scenario?? Smdh

  4. joemoes

    I felt this hiring was always a nod to his father. The team was bad they weren’t going anywhere let’s see if Saunders son can rejuvenate us inspire some fans. Unfortunately if you don’t win and the gm who promoted you gets fired the new gm will have different plans. He was set up for failure from the beginning and the injuries this year haven’t helped. Personally I would of given him one more year. Get a high pick see how he starts off next year with DLo and towns. He’s had them together a total or 5 games and only had towns 54 games that’s insane.

  5. joemoes

    Wow and he is the definition of Minnesota, born raised, high school , college, and job after his wizards gig. Sucks when the hometown guy never had a chance

        • phillyballers

          Best player always injured. Wiggins only seems to be working on his game b/c he’s afraid of Draymond. Trade for DLo and he’s injured. Roster full of 2 guards. No real thought process about the roster construction.

          Was he also the GM?

  6. mike.honcho

    Saunders seems to be a nice dude, but he was clearly way in over his head.

    The young guys just won’t respond to someone that young, without that much coaching experience and credibility.

    Most other coaches would’ve frowned upon Edwards/Beasley chucking up contested shots, instead of swinging the ball and finding KAT.

    Finch was in strong consideration for a few recent HC gigs, he’ll probably do a better job than Saunders.

    • joemoes

      Hard to find towns this year when he’s been out: and then he was injured this year. No chance to build chemistry

  7. Jason Lancaster

    My guess is that KAT is on his last coach in Minnesota. Either Finch cracks the code and Minnesota starts competing, or KAT asks for a trade.

    What was it – 2 weeks ago when KAT was complaining about the season? Ownership knows what comes after that.

    I also think this accelerates Taylor’s plans to sell the team. They’re worth more with KAT than without him.

    • Black Ace57

      Don’t know how much KAT gets in a trade compared to other stars. He has never contributed to winning and doesn’t play hard enough on defense. I think he will always be the star player on bad to average teams.

      • Jason Lancaster

        Certainly makes sense, only Minnesota has never been good at building teams. KG was amazing there and it never got him the recognition he deserved.

        • x%sure

          Garnett made the ASG 10 of 12 years in Minnesota… he was known, just not liked much for such as dirty screens. He is overrated as an underrated guy! Garnett could not get along with Wally Szerbiak, and that was hard to do. Who kept Boston a “big 3” with Rondo increasingly leading them? Who got in the way of positive change? And now people want him to be boss. Not the answer either.

  8. Ironmonger835

    They had to have at least interviewed that dude before hiring him so that meant they already planned to fire Saunders and didn’t tell him. Lol. He just shows up and finds some dude sitting in his office.

  9. Very Barry

    Anyone else continue to be amazed that Mark Jackson cannot even get a sniff as a head coach? Mark Jackson remains one of the rare dudes out here who will walk into a n NBA locker room and will both command and demand RESPECT from Day 1. Mark Jackson is a culture-builder in a way that is very similar to Thibs with the Knicks. I don’t know of a franchise in the NBA that is more starved for the type of leadership that Mark Jackson brings to the table than Minnesota. Chris Finch is already a failure in Minnesota before officially starting the job. The first thing that has to change in Minnesota is a culture change and then a complete overhaul of the roster including KAT, DLo and Anthony Edwards. Nobody plays defense! You will never win with these guys. Trade them now while you can still fool some other teams into thinking that they can win with these stat-stuffing losers who play NO defense and NEVER win. They then compound it by complaining and forcing out the true culture-changers like Thibs and Jimmy Butler. Minnesota could have corrected their mistake in choosing KAT over Thibs and Jimmy by hiring Mark Jackson. Franchise now remains a complete failure. Worst front office in the NBA and have been making just horrific moves for the better part of 15 years now.

    • Black Ace57

      My only thought is he has to have some reputation or be a bad interview. I wonder how well he takes criticism and ownership of how things went with the Warriors and the major step forward they took replacing him.

    • mike.honcho

      Indeed Mark Jackson should be given a HC job somewhere. However, numerous articles have his hardline religious beliefs, as one of the reasons he was replaced back then with the DUBS.

      He doesn’t seem like the man to back down from his beliefs, so most, if not all teams won’t even consider him for a HC job now.

    • Jason Lancaster

      Because Jackson is a dinosaur who doesn’t understand modern NBA offense and (allegedly) treats staff poorly.

      At some point, when the guy keeps missing out on opportunities, you have to realize he’s not good. Casual fans are the only reason he’s on TV calling games. His analysis is garbage.

    • DeathbyDeathwest

      Mark Jackson renders every game he calls nearly unwatchable. If his commentary is anything to go by, I don’t know who gives him a job.

      But then again, I said the same thing about SVG last year and that seems to be going ok in NOLA.

      Perhaps banal game commentary makes for good coaching.

  10. phillyballers

    Their roster has 3 dudes taller than 6’6″ that belong on an NBA roster. Roster construction matters.

    One real PG in Rubio and 6 Combo Guards. No one long enough to guard wings.

  11. nentwigs

    “Worst front office in the NBA and have been making just horrific moves for the better part of 15 years now.”

    Check again, the bad moves go back to 1989.

  12. raz427

    You won’t win many games when your best player has played in only 11 games. Also, Russell game has gone down. He isn’t a leader or a player on a contending team. How long before KAT wants out? Also, this team doesn’t belong in the West. It’s too competitive and high pace for them both off the court and in the front office. It’s time the NBA did something about it.

  13. Sensitive Fanboy

    I might have gone with a defensive focused coach, but they can climb that mountain when they get there.

    This move will not bring Russell back from injury or replace all the games affected by injured players. And make up for Ricky Rubio.

    Saunders is probably done NBA coaching. Wished it had gone a little better for him.

  14. All Minnesota Sports

    I love Ryan Saunders but it’s been abundantly clear for a while that he only retained the job because of of his dad, RIP Flip. I really wish it could have worked out, but he honestly just ran a college offense and failed to center the offense around KAT. A change was overdue. I do think it was a little sketchy how this played out, and I honestly would have given Vanterpool a chance at running the team.

    • joemoes

      My only thing is he never got KAT in less then have his games coached. I wonder what his record is with KaT

  15. Marty McRae

    @NBA RUMORS

    Please IP ban “MartyMcFeminine” – this is personal harassment AND being childish, sexist, and homophobic all in one. How can you allow this to go on??

    • bigguccisosa300

      Chill out buddy, comments like this are probably why whoever it is made the account lmfao.

      Anyways! The Nick Nurse coaching tree grows…

    • raz427

      What are YOU talking about??? I don’t recall anybody having a username like that on here? Are you bored again and causing attention to yourself per usual??

        • Luke Adams

          We can only moderate comments on the basketball site and I haven’t seen that username here, but I’ll keep an eye out.

        • Twinsfan333

          @marty that’s all you do is say horrible things to other posters. You reap what you sow. Time to start developing a little self awareness.

  16. jeb39999

    I just want to know when The conversation with Finch started about being the head coach, I think Saunders was fired a while ago but just not told until last night.

  17. El Don

    MIN needs to get D’Lo healthy…
    Get rid of Beasley & Edwards…
    If only they had listened to reason & got LaMelo with the #1 as it was sooo plain for all to see that he was light years better than Edwards, too late now for that…
    & above all for the cryin’ out loud give the ball to KAT & let all the attacks go through him as he is the only superstar in there!!!

  18. Good move; even if done by a GM who has his own issues. Saunders was in over his head. The GM is still going to have to answer for his moves (and its hard to know how he does that, just yet), but you can’t blame him for trying to prevent the situation from looking even worse than it is due to having a glorified ball boy as HC. He did “hire” the guy (for the permanent job), but he was, I believe, interim HC when the GM took the job.

  19. x%sure

    * My last point in my first post could be overrated on this page, or even wrong-headed… but the Wolves’ bubble experience may have doomed Saunders’ regime.
    While the official player encouragement was to be socially connected as possible, it was not because that is the way to win such things as the bubble. Arguably the Lakers and Heat were two teams least affected, despite Lebron’s efforts at leadership. The best thing a coach could do was to keep them directed while recognizing the aims. The Wolves’ home was right in the middle of the trigger event and repercussion, the home of the shooting, but their coach was no shield, being so locally developed.
    The owner’s son (Jeffry? and a couple players) kept them more activist in the bubble than possibly any other team and Taylor bragged about it, going completely over Saunders’ head despite lacking office. Now the HC is gone and nobody’s surprised. Presumably this has been planned. Underperformance started then.

    • x%sure

      Sorry confused with the Bucks. Nevermind. Though they are fumbling too.

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