Just a casual Sunday night news dump, am I right?
After a 103-99 defeat Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced that they had officially relieved Ryan Saunders of his head coaching duties:
The Minnesota Timberwolves have dismissed coach Ryan Saunders, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 22, 2021
Before many of us could even digest that the plug had finally been pulled by Gersson Rosas, there was this additional bombshell as well:
Simply put, there is a LOT to digest all of a sudden.
For starters, let’s acknowledge the irony of this entire situation — the Timberwolves fired their last head coach (Tom Thibodeau) after a 22-point victory, and now have fired their current head coach (Ryan Saunders) after he was defeated at the hands of Thibs’ new team in the Big Apple.
The #Timberwolves fired their last head coach after a 22-point victory.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) February 22, 2021
The #Timberwolves current head coach has now lost 24 games THIS SEASON, 11 of which were by 10 or more points.
Minnesota has played just 31 games.
OK OK... deep breaths.
Let’s start with Ryan — as many have said countless times over the months, Ryan Saunders is a great person. Current and former players have spoken very highly of him, and his ability to relate to young men has been one of his calling cards during his NBA tenure. With that said, it was simply not working for him in Minnesota, and despite being considered a “player’s coach,” it was becoming more and more evident that the players were not buying what he was selling and that a change was WELL overdue.
As for Finch — as you may remember, the Timberwolves originally interviewed him back in 2019 when Gersson Rosas took over:
The Timberwolves have secured permission to interview New Orleans Pelicans assistant Chris Finch for their coaching vacancy, according to league sources. Finch and new Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked together in Houston— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 14, 2019
Clearly the interview went well (despite Ryan Saunders eventually being given the keys to the Timberwolves castle), and anyone in the know knew it was only a matter of time that Finch — not associate head coach Davin Vanterpool — would be at the top of Rosas’s list if he was given the ability to make his own hire.
Speaking of “his own hire” — while this move is Earth-shattering on it’s own, it also paints a broader picture of who truly wields the power right now at Mayo Clinic Square. There had been rumblings for weeks now that this type of move was eventually coming, but in Timberwolves fashion, those rumblings included sprinkles of information that Glen Taylor wanted to ultimately see Ryan have the ability to coach a full, healthy squad (which includes BOTH Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell). With Russell now sidelined for a month or more, it likely became evident to Glen that this team, this franchise, and this fan base could no longer ram it’s head into the wall night after night after night.
As for associate head coach David Vanterpool, I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t a tough pill to swallow. I have no idea if DV can be a successful head coach in this league, but he was more than deserving of having at least a shot with this young group of guys; however, that door has now obviously (and firmly) been closed.
How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool 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!— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) February 22, 2021
We will obviously have much, much more on this blockbuster move as the week goes on, but for now it looks like Gersson Rosas was finally granted permission to bring in the guy he may have wanted all along. Minnesota will now officially say goodbye to former head coach Ryan Saunders, who went 43-94 as the team’s head coach, including 7-24 this season.