The Minnesota Timberwolves fired coach Ryan Saunders on Sunday night, hours after the team with the NBA’s worst record this season lost for the eighth time in the last nine games.
A person with knowledge of the situation said that the Timberwolves were finalizing plans to introduce Toronto assistant Chris Finch as the new coach Monday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Finch’s hiring has not been formally completed.
ESPN first reported Saunders’ dismissal and The Athletic first reported Finch’s looming hiring.
Saunders, the 34-year-old son of longtime Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was with the Timberwolves for parts of three seasons, going 43-94. Minnesota has the league’s worst record this season at 7-24 and is already 7 1/2 games out of what would be the final play-in spot for the Western Conference post-season.
“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas said. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”
It had been a wildly disappointing season for the Timberwolves, who started 2-0 and haven’t had much to savour since. Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s best player, dislocated his left wrist in the season’s second game and missed six games — then returned and missed 13 more after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
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Finch has history with Rosas, as they both worked together with the Houston Rockets. He coached the team’s affiliate in what is now called the G League, winning a championship with Rio Grande Valley, then became a Rockets assistant. He went on to have assistant jobs in Denver, New Orleans and was in his first season with the Raptors.