Timberwolves fire head coach Ryan Saunders
The Minnesota Timberwolves have fired head coach Ryan Saunders after a 7-24 start, the team announced on Sunday.
In a corresponding move, Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch has been hired to take over the team.
Gersson Rosas, President of Basketball Operations, made the decision to fire Saunders on Sunday after the Timberwolves blew a huge lead to the New York Knicks. Saunders posted a 43-94 record over two-plus seasons with the Timberwolves.
Rosas did not want to finish out the regular season with an interim head coach, and he wasted little time in targeting Finch. Finch is expected to begin his head coaching career on Tuesday night when the Timberwolves take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
Rosas took over as President of Basketball Operations in 2019, and he agreed to keep Saunders on as the head coach at that time. Finch was actually interviewed by the Timberwolves, but the organization decided to give Saunders a chance.
Nick Nurse hired Finch to be his top assistant with the Toronto Raptors this season, but that organization made it clear that they would not stop him from pursuing a head coaching opportunity. Finch and Rosas have worked together in the past, and it should help make this a smooth transition.
Finch has spent time as an assistant coach with the Raptors, Nuggets, Rockets and Pelicans organizations and has also had some success in the G League. In 2010, Finch led the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the championship.
Even though the Timberwolves felt the need to dismiss Saunders of his head coaching duties, the remainder of the coaching staff will be in place. Finch will be joined on the bench by David Vanterpool, Bryan Gates, and Pablo Prigioni.
This is the first time since 2009 that an NBA assistant coach has been hired by a different NBA team to become the head coach. Lionel Hollins was hired by the Memphis Grizzlies that year when he was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff.
Minnesota has dealt with a number of injuries this season, and it currently has the worst record in the NBA.
Russell Out Four to Six Weeks
A new era of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball will begin this week, but it will start without one of their most important players. DAngelo Russell recently went through arthroscopic knee surgery, and he will be sidelined for the next four to six weeks.
The surgery was to remove a loose body in the left knee, and that injury had kept him out of the lineup for three straight games. Russell is expected to make a full recovery and should return the lineup after the All-Star break.
Minnesota acquired Russell during the 2019-20 season in exchange for Andrew Wiggins. Russell was averaging 19.3 points and 5.1 assists per game before being sidelined with the injury.
Since joining the Timberwolves, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have played in just five games together, and Minnesota has gone 2-3 in those games. Towns and Russell were the first and second picks in the 2015 NBA Draft and will be the faces of the franchise moving forward.
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