The Minnesota Timberwolves fired their head coach and hired a new one nearly at the same time. Ryan Saunders was fired as the Timberwolves coach by the president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas on Sunday. On Monday, the team hired Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch.
Saunders was informed he was fired after the Timberwolves lost to the New York Knicks 103-99, giving the team a 7-24 record on the year, the worst in the NBA. "We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future," 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."
Saunders, 34, has been with the Timberwolves organization since 2014 as an assistant coach. He was promoted to head coach in 2019 after being an interim coach in 2018. In Saunders' first full season, the Timberwolves finished with a 19-45 record and fifth in Northwest division. Minnesota has built a young and talented roster that features Malik Beasley, D'Angelo Russell who is out after knee surgery, Anthony Edwards who was drafted No. 1 overall before the start of the season, and All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. Saunders' father, Flip Saunders, coached the Timberwolves from 1995-2005 and again from 2014-2015. He died before the 2015-2016 season.
The move to hire Finch as the head coach is rare. The Timberwolves are the first team since 2009 to hire an assistant coach to be the head coach with a new team during the season, according to ESPN. Finch has been an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelican and the Raptors where he won a G League title with the Rip Grande Valley Vipers in 2010. Finch, 51, was the top assistant coach for Nick Nurse in Toronto.
"I would like to thank [owner] Glen Taylor and Gersson Rosas for this incredible opportunity to be the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves," Finch said in the statement. "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."