New Timberwolves coach Chris Finch: 'We're not a million miles away'

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Chris Hine, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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MILWAUKEE – Chris Finch stepped in as the new Timberwolves coach on Monday, saying he wanted to "breathe some confidence into the roster."

Finch, an assistant with Toronto, replaced Ryan Saunders, who was fired Sunday night.

Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas said the decision to move on from Saunders was made Sunday afternoon, and he was allowed to coach a final game against the Knicks in New York because game operations were underway.

"We've got the worst record in the NBA," Rosas said on a Zoom call. "We're struggling on both sides of the ball. We needed to be boldly direct with this opportunity."

The Raptors gave Rosas permission to talk to Finch on Sunday, and the deal came together quickly.

"It's a young roster at the right time, and we can establish an identity," said Finch, 51. "It's a hard league to win in, but we're not a million miles away."

Rosas said Finch was the runner-up two years ago when Saunders was named the full-time coach. The team president was criticized in some circles Monday for not hiring a minority candidate, particularly top Saunders assistant David Vanterpool.

"Anyone who knows me knows how important diversity is to me," Rosas said. "Being in a pandemic, being in this situation, it really changes things. A lot of what this process was about was our original search when we hired Ryan. There were minority candidates we considered at this time."

Rosa said the assistant coaches would remain with the team.

Finch said Timberwolves standout Karl Anthony Towns "should be the center of everything." The two spoke Sunday night.

"It's a tough moment for anyone when there's a change in the organization but we talked about how we can get him back to being the centerpoint of this team," Finch said. "You don't often get that type of skill package in this game."

After getting to sleep at 4 a.m., Finch said he woke on Monday morning to a slew of congratulatory text messages. He finally has a head coaching job after 10 years as an NBA assistant.

"Someone told me that overnight success takes 10 years. I've been in the league for 10 years. The journey is the best part.

"What we're going to do here is build on those 10 years. That's what gives me the confidence to do this job.

"You don't get to pick your timing in life.You just have to be ready when it's your time."

Saunders, the son of former Wolves coach Flip Saunders, replaced Tom Thibodeau in January 2019, and Rosas took over as president of basketball operations five months later. Saunders got the job full-time that summer.

"The Saunders DNA is all over this team," Rosas said. "We're really appreciative of what Ryan has done."

Rosas was involved in running the Rockets' G-League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley where Finch was the head coach from 2009 to '11 before Finch became an assistant with the Rockets.