The Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the New York Knicks on Sunday to fall to a league-worst 7-24 this season. That defeat turned out to be the last straw for management, and the team announced shortly after the game that they have fired coach Ryan Saunders.
What’s more, they already have a replacement lined up. Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch is expected to be named their new coach, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Wolves’ press release indicated a formal announcement should arrive on Monday.
The son of the late Flip Saunders, Ryan got his start in the NBA as an assistant with the Washington Wizards and was on the bench in D.C. from 2009-2014. He then took an assistant job with the Timberwolves and was eventually named interim coach after Tom Thibodeau was fired in 2019. After that season, he signed a deal to take the job on a permanent basis, and at 33 years old was the youngest head coach in the league.
In a little less than two full seasons worth of games, the Timberwolves went 43-94 under Saunders. They finished with the third-worst record in the league last season — eventually winning the lottery and taking Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft — and had the worst record so far this season before his firing.
On some level, Saunders was stuck in an impossible situation. There was almost total roster upheaval during his tenure, and more games lost to injury than you can count. When Karl-Anthony Towns has only played 45 games in the last two seasons combined, there’s only so much you can do. Still, with results like that, there’s little surprise that the front office eventually decided to go in a different direction.
They’ll now turn to Finch, the highly regarded Raptors assistant who was a frontrunner for numerous jobs this offseason. Finch began his coaching career overseas in 1997 and has been on an NBA bench since 2011 when he was hired by the Houston Rockets. The president of basketball operations in Houston at that time was Gersson Rosas, who is now running the Wolves’ front office.
Finch is highly regarded for his work on the offensive side of the ball, and Raptors coach Nick Nurse has called him “one of the best offensive minds in the NBA.” In an interview with The Athletic last year, Finch noted his affinity for playing fast and trying to be unpredictable.
It will be interesting to see what he’s able to do with a Wolves team that has a lot of talent but hasn’t been able to put things together. Obviously, injuries are a major caveat here, but they’re ranked No. 28 in offense this season, scoring just 105.7 points per 100 possessions.