David Vanterpool

Wolves Notes: Finch, Defense, Towns, Vanterpool

The Timberwolves hired Chris Finch as their new head coach in the hopes of improving an offense that ranked 28th in the NBA under Ryan Saunders, and while the results on that front were promising in Finch’s debut on Tuesday, Minnesota also allowed a season-high 139 points in a blowout loss to Milwaukee, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

Acknowledging that he has a reputation as more of an offensive-minded coach, Finch stressed on Tuesday that the Wolves’ defense has to improve, noting that he’s hoping to streamline the system and implement “simple, highly executable coverages” for the team’s young roster.

“We don’t want them overthinking anything out there where there’s a lag time in their performance and reaction. But yeah, we’re all about the defense,” Finch said, according to Krawczynski. “I’m known for the offensive side of the ball, but the reality is I’m a defense-first guy because that creates the best offense. You still have to play defense in this league to win.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • After being hired, Finch told Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns that he’s committed to running the team’s offense through him going forward, according to Chris Hine and Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune. “He should be at the center of everything,” Finch said of Towns, per Krawczynski. That approach was evident on Tuesday, as Towns matched a season high with 19 shot attempts and established a new career-high with 11 assists.
  • While Towns expressed a hope that more “Black and minority coaches” – including Wolves assistant David Vanterpool – will get head coaching opportunities going forward, he pledged to support Finch and once again reiterated his commitment to the franchise, as Hine writes in a separate story for The Star Tribune. “I’m a very loyal guy, to a fault. I’ve said it before, I would love to finish my career here in Minnesota,” Towns told reporters. “I want to build something great here. I want to build a legacy in Minnesota.”
  • When Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas discussed the hiring of Finch, he explained that the veteran assistant was a finalist when the team conducted a brief search and ultimately decided to retain Ryan Saunders in 2019, which was one reason why he was comfortable bringing him in midseason without a full-fledged search this time around. “When we got that opportunity we were very aggressive with it because he’s a candidate that we have experience with through our last process and the guy we identified as a target for us,” Rosas said (link via Hine).
  • Ricky Rubio admitted he’ll miss Saunders and called the timing of Finch’s full-time hiring “a little weird,” but said he has been impressed by the new coach’s offensive mind so far (link via Hine). Malik Beasley, who played for Denver during the one season that Finch was a Nuggets assistant, had nothing but praise for him as well, calling Finch a “great guy” and predicting that the Wolves are “going to do some big things.”

Timberwolves Notes: Towns, Saunders, Russell, Vanterpool

Amid the turmoil of a mid-season coaching change, the Timberwolves got some good news Sunday night as star center Karl-Anthony Towns indicated he foresees a long future with the organization, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Towns was asked about his intentions following a loss to the Knicks that dropped Minnesota’s record to a league-worst 7-24.

“If you want to build a legacy we got to win,” Towns said. “And I want to build my legacy here so I want to win with the Wolves, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to keep step-by-step, brick-by-brick, building something and a culture here that’s going to stand here for a long time.”

Towns, 25, still has three more years on the extension he signed in 2018, paying him $31.65MM, $33.83MM and $36MM through the 2023/24 season. He could opt to demand a trade, as other stars have done in losing situations, but Sunday’s comments should offer some hope to the Wolves that he’s committed to turning things around in Minnesota.

There’s more on the Timberwolves:

  • Ryan Saunders knew for weeks that his job was in jeopardy, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Players had been openly speculating about a coaching change, and the only question was whether management would keep him in place through the end of the season. Owner Glen Taylor had resisted the move because Towns was out of the lineup so much this season due to injuries and a battle with COVID-19. However, Minnesota was just 1-7 since Towns returned February 10, which was enough for Taylor to endorse firing Saunders.
  • Obvious tension built up between guard D’Angelo Russell and Saunders as losses mounted, Krawczynski adds in the same story. A long-time friend of Towns, Russell was brought in at last year’s trade deadline to provide a second star for the team to build around. However, because of injuries and the hiatus, Saunders only got to coach Towns and Russell together in five games.
  • Several NBA players questioned why Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool wasn’t chosen to replace Saunders, with the loudest support for the former Trail Blazers assistant coming from Portland stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, notes Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports. “How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool,” Lillard tweeted, “and he’s right there on the bench… and has been in front office SUCCESSFULLY and on the front of a bench of a winning team SUCCESSFULLY (7 years) … and also has played a major role in the development of a dominant backcourt smdh!” According to Krawczynski, there has been speculation throughout the league that Chris Finch has been on top of president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas‘ wish list since he joined the Wolves two years ago, and Rosas was willing to endure criticism over not considering a minority candidate such as Vanterpool.

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.

Wolves Notes: RHJ, Taylor, Vanterpool, Russell, Towns

Speaking to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor praised Rondae Hollis-Jefferson‘s performance during training camp and the preseason, explaining that the team’s decision to release him was an “insurance policy” for roster flexibility.

“If we’d (retained Hollis-Jefferson), then we’d have the roster. We wouldn’t have any room for any movement at all,” Taylor said. “And I just think that you want to go into this year leaving a little bit of flexibility to see if you get some injuries or something like that, that you can bring in somebody to fill it.”

While Taylor’s point is a fair one, it’s worth noting that Hollis-Jefferson had a non-guaranteed contract, as do Jaylen Nowell and Naz Reid, who remain on the roster. So even if the Timberwolves had carried a full 15-man roster into the regular season, they would’ve had some flexibility to make changes if necessary prior to February’s league-wide salary guarantee deadline.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Although Taylor has done his due diligence on a potential sale of the franchise, he suggested in his conversation with Wolfson that no agreement is close and acknowledged that he could still own the club a year from now. “There’s probably a good possibility that could happen,” Taylor said.
  • Within his discussion with Wolfson, Taylor also said he expects Timberwolves assistant coach David Vanterpool to eventually become an NBA head coach and said that president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas remains on the lookout for trades that could upgrade Minnesota’s roster.
  • Ricky Rubio started in place of D’Angelo Russell in the Wolves’ opener because Russell was late for his coronavirus test on Wednesday, writes Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune. As Reusse notes, Russell tested negative and ended up playing 33 minutes, but the Wolves’ decision not to start him sent a message that they expect their players to strictly follow COVID-19 protocols.
  • Following the death of his mother and several other loved ones this year, Karl-Anthony Towns is playing with a heavy heart and is no longer the “happy-go-lucky” player he was during his first five seasons in the NBA, Jon Krawzyncski writes for The Athletic. “You may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13,” an emotional Towns said following the Wolves’ win on Wednesday. “He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me, but my soul has been killed off a long time ago.”

Rockets Coaching Candidates Knew Of Morey’s Decision

While Daryl Morey’s decision to step down as the Rockets’ GM surfaced this week, he said that coaching candidates were notified during the interviewing process that he was departing, Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

Morey made up his mind nearly a month ago, a day after the team was eliminated from the Western Conference playoffs. Family considerations were the main reason why he chose to leave at this time.

“I mean he just said, ‘You know, I’m kind of just struggling and don’t know what I want to do,’” owner Tilman Fertitta said. “To tell y’all, when we signed Daryl’s last extension, Daryl told me, ‘You know, I’m not going to always be here (and) when my last son graduates (I might leave).'”

Head coach Mike D’Antoni decided he didn’t want to remain in the organization on the plane ride home and Morey said all of D’Antoni’s potential replacements were told that he was headed out, as well.

“We’ve been up front with all the candidates that this was coming and they’ve been respectful to not have it get out early,” said Morey, who added that D’Antoni’s parting did not impact his decision. “It’s been baked in.”

The Athletic duo, though, said that it hasn’t been quite that transparent. At least two of those candidates were uncertain why Rafael Stone, the executive VP of basketball operations who is replacing Morey as GM, was leading the interviewing process. They were not directly told Morey was going to step down.

Morey had essentially been operating as a consultant the past few weeks, The Athletic confirmed.

Houston has interviewed Jeff Van Gundy, Ty Lue, Kenny Atkinson, Stephen Silas, David Vanterpool, Wes Unseld Jr., and John Lucas for the vacant coaching job. Lue has agreed to coach the Clippers, while Van Gundy, Silas and Lucas appear to be the top remaining candidates for the Rockets.

Latest On Rockets’ Head Coaching Search

The Rockets‘ pool of candidates to replace Mike D’Antoni as the team’s new head coach still consists of seven names for now, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. According to Feigen, the club hasn’t ruled out expanding the interview process beyond those seven candidates, but has been “pleased” with its meetings so far.

Houston met last week with current assistant coaches Stephen Silas (Mavericks), David Vanterpool (Timberwolves), and Wes Unseld Jr. (Nuggets), as well as former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

According to Feigen, team officials have since met with Rockets player development coach John Lucas as well, and Tyronn Lue‘s interview is scheduled to happen today. Jeff Van Gundy is also expected to interview with Houston now that his broadcasting duties for ABC and ESPN have come to an end for the season.

It’s not clear yet whether the Rockets will be prepared to make a decision on their new head coach after completing their meetings with Lue and Van Gundy. As Feigen writes, it’s possible the team will want to narrow down the field and bring back finalists for follow-up sessions, but team owner Tilman Fertitta has been part of the interview process already, so it’s not as if contenders for the position still need to meet with him.

The Rockets are one of five NBA teams still seeking a new head coach, along with the Pelicans, Pacers, Thunder, and Clippers.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Vanterpool, Unseld, McCollum

The Jazz had a relatively successful 2019/20 run, culminating in a first round 4-3 loss to the Nuggets sans start small forward Bojan Bogdanović. As the team looks to improve this offseason, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News assesses possible free agent additions for the Jazz, with input from some Utah fans.

Todd looks at the potential fit and cost of Suns center Aron Baynes, Pacers wing Justin Holiday, Bulls combo guard Shaquille Harrison, Pistons power forward Christian Wood, and Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. — all are role players who could especially help the team’s defense.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool ranks among the top candidates for the head job with the ThunderJoe Mussatto of the Oklahoman runs through Vanterpool’s resume and apparent coaching style. “I have different philosophies when it comes to schematics and how you want to approach a situation,” Vanterpool said in a May conversation with the NBA Coaches Association.
  • Nuggets lead assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. has been interviewed by the Rockets and Clippers about each of those Western Conference playoff contenders’ head coaching vacancies, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Unseld is known around the league to be a player-friendly, defensive-oriented coach. After the Nuggets defeated the Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals, Unseld was singled out for praise by head coach Mike Malone“Wes Unseld should be a head coach,” Malone raved. “Our defense in the last three games [all Nuggets wins] has been phenomenal.”
  • Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com tweets that Trail Blazers starting shooting guard CJ McCollum expects to resume all his basketball activities with no restrictions in November as he continues to rehabilitate from the lower back injury he incurred during the NBA’s summer restart. “Got a little plan together from a rehab standpoint to kind of make sure everything is in place,” McCollum said.

Rockets Rumors: Green, Tucker, Nwaba, Coaching Search

Former Rockets swingman Gerald Green, who missed the entire 2019/20 season due to a broken foot, is training privately in Houston and is hoping to eventually reunite with the Rockets, league sources tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Green, 34, began the ’19/20 campaign with the Rockets, but didn’t suit up for any games, having undergone foot surgery on October before he was eventually traded and waived in February. A July report indicated that Green has since recovered from that procedure and received medical clearance, but decided not to seek a new deal until the fall for family reasons, including the expected birth of his child in August.

Green has signed three consecutive minimum-salary contracts with Houston since 2017, so it seems safe to assume that the team would remain interested in bringing him back at that price as long as he’s fully healthy and there’s a roster spot available.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • P.J. Tucker is still hoping to reach an agreement with the Rockets on a new contract that would extend his current deal beyond 2020/21, according to Iko. Both sides are believed to be “on the same page” when it comes to wanting Tucker in Houston beyond next season, says Iko. Because Tucker is earning below the NBA’s estimated average salary in ’20/21, his starting salary on an extension wouldn’t be able to exceed about $11.5MM for ’21/22.
  • Within his same story for The Athletic, Iko cites a source who says David Nwaba “looks good” as he continues to rehab his Achilles injury in the hopes of getting healthy for the start of the 2020/21 season. Nwaba is being viewed internally as a “key rotational piece” for next season, Iko adds.
  • Following up on a Wednesday report, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle says that David Vanterpool‘s interview for the Rockets’ head coaching job will actually take place on Friday.
  • Feigen confirms that Kenny Atkinson, Wes Unseld Jr., and Stephen Silas have interviewed for the position so far, with meetings still to come for Vanterpool, Tyronn Lue, and John Lucas. The early interviewees have been “impressive” but there’s no clear frontrunner yet, according to Feigen, who adds that Jeff Van Gundy and other potential candidates could still end up meeting with Houston about the job.

Rockets Interview Stephen Silas, David Vanterpool

The list of candidates to interview for the Rockets‘ head coaching vacancy continues to grow, with Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston reporting (via Twitter) that the club has met with Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas and Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool about the position.

An earlier report indicated that Kenny Atkinson has interviewed with the Rockets for their coaching job. Tyronn Lue is also expected to meet with the club at some point this week about the position — it’s not clear whether or not that meeting has already occurred. Rockets assistant John Lucas is said to be an “emerging candidate” for the role, and the club has also secured permission to talk to Wes Unseld Jr.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Silas, who was hired in 1999 as a scout by the franchise known at the time as the Charlotte Hornets, has since served as an assistant on a number of NBA coaching staffs. After spending eight years as an assistant with the Bobcats/Hornets from 2010-18, he moved to Dallas in 2018, where he has spent the last two years as a member of Rick Carlisle‘s staff.

Vanterpool, meanwhile, coached EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow from 2007-12 before returning stateside and becoming a Trail Blazers assistant. After seven years in Portland, he was hired in 2019 by the Timberwolves as an associate head coach under Ryan Saunders.

Both Silas and Vanterpool have interviewed for head coaching positions in the past, but neither has any head coaching experience. Each of the two veteran assistants reportedly interviewed with the Pacers and Bulls this year, while Vanterpool has also been linked to the Thunder’s opening.

Coaching Rumors: Gentry, Vanterpool, Rockets, Pelicans, More

After being dismissed by New Orleans in August, Alvin Gentry hasn’t been linked to any head coaching openings, but he’s reportedly drawing interest from multiple teams for a potential assistant role.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday evening (via Twitter) that Gentry has emerged as a “serious possibility” to join Doc Rivers‘ staff with the Sixers. The two veteran coaches have a pre-existing relationship, as Gentry was the associate head coach under Rivers during his first year with the Clippers in 2013/14.

While Philadelphia is one possibility for Gentry, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link) hears that New Orleans’ former head coach is also in the running to become the Kings‘ associate head coach under Luke Walton. Gentry and Walton were previously members of Golden State’s coaching staff during the 2014/15 season.

Here are a few more coaching rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool will be among the candidates interviewing for the Rockets‘ head coaching job, reports Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Vanterpool is also believed to be a candidate for Indiana and Oklahoma City, and was considered by Chicago before the club hired Billy Donovan.
  • Confirming a previous report from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter) that Tyronn Lue has meetings lined up with the Pelicans and Rockets. Lue is also a leading candidate for the Clippers‘ job, and Woj notes that L.A. is expected to begin meeting with candidates soon.
  • The Pelicans‘ head coaching search process is underway, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link), who hears that the plan is to eventually bring in two or three finalists for formal in-person interviews. It’s not clear when those face-to-face meetings will happen though, Lopez adds. A previous report on Lue’s meeting with New Orleans on Friday suggested it would be an “informal” discussion.
  • Some people with the Nets view Oklahoma City assistant Brian Keefe as a good fit for Steve Nash‘s staff in Brooklyn, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Keefe was in OKC with Kevin Durant from 2007-15 and returned to the team last year, but isn’t a lock to be back with the Thunder after the club’s head coaching change.