Minnesota Timberwolves fire Ryan Saunders as coach after nightmare start

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The son of Flip Saunders, the former Timberwolves’ coach and executive, and the first millennial to coach in the NBA, Ryan Saunders was forced to cope with injuries to his two centerpiece players, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, this season. With Minnesota dropping to a league-worst 7-24 record after suffering its fourth straight loss on Sunday, the Timberwolves relieved Saunders of his duties.

In an unusual midseason move, Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas plans to hire Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch as a full-time replacement for Saunders, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

“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.”

After his 2019 arrival in Minnesota, Rosas conducted a coaching search that ended with Saunders’s promotion from an interim role. The Timberwolves moved aggressively to find a running mate for Towns, sacrificing Andrew Wiggins and their first-round pick this season for Russell in a trade with the Golden State Warriors. Those plans have yet to materialize, as Towns and Russell have shared the court for just five games since the trade.

The Timberwolves struggled to craft an identity — ranking 28th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in defensive efficiency — in part because of an extraordinarily young roster. They are also 6-11 in games that were within five points or fewer in the last five minutes, with a number of those losses coming from self-inflicted late-game mistakes. Saunders’s departure continues a turbulent period for the organization, which was rumored to be up for sale last July, although a sale never materialized.

Finch, 51, was a Houston Rockets assistant coach during Rosas’s front office tenure with that franchise, and has previously served as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans before joining the Raptors this year. His coaching career also includes stops in England, Germany, Belgium and the G-League. Minnesota would represent Finch’s first full-time NBA head coaching opportunity.

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