The Minnesota Timberwolves are the worst team in the NBA with a 7-24 record, so the front office needed a scapegoat and fired head coach Ryan Saunders. The Timberwolves hired offensive guru Chris Finch from the Toronto Raptors in hopes that he can make the T-Wolves great again.
But like Sun Tzu said centuries ago, “Every battle is won before it is even fought.” The Timberwolves were doomed before they even stepped on the court this season.
Sure, Saunders didn’t do his job, but the Timberwolves recently lost D’Angelo Russell to a knee injury and Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s best player, missed multiple games with a wrist injury before he contracted COVID-19.
The timing wasn’t optimal. For one, the T-Wolves are in the middle of a lengthy road trip and the All-Star Break is just around the corner. However, the front office decided it couldn’t wait until then and fired Saunders within hours after the T-Wolves lost to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening.
In January 2019, Saunders became the youngest head coach in the NBA when he replaced Tom Thibodeau, who was fired midway through the season. He coached 137 games with the T-Wolves, but won just 43 games with a 43-94 record.
Saunders is the son of Flip Saunders, who coached the Timberwolves during their golden years between 1995 and 2005. Ryan and Flip Saunders were one of five active father/son coaching duos in the NBA, along with Stephen Silas, JB Bickerstaff, Eric Musselman, and Michael Malone.
Outside Help with Chris Finch
The Timberwolves made an unusual move by not promoting a current assistant coach to become their interim head coach. Instead, the T-Wolves hired an assistant coach from another team. They got permission to talk to Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch, who essentially was the “offensive coordinator” under head coach Nick Nurse.
Much like Nurse, Finch had previous experience as the head coach of the Rio Grande Vipers from the NBA’s G League. The Timberwolves hope Finch can transform the squad into a high-scoring team. Hey, if you’re going to constantly suck as the doormat of the Western Conference, at least make it exciting by scoring a ton of points.
“Chris brings a wealth of basketball experience from his time in the NBA, G League and internationally,” said team president Gersson Rosas in an official statement. “He is one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA. Chris has success maximizing players. I am excited to see him bring our team to the next level and beyond.”
You can’t score 130 points a night without star players. The miserly Timberwolves failed to open their checkbook in previous years in order to retain their top young players. Nor were they able to use the Twin Cities as a hook to lure high-priced free agents. Minneapolis doesn’t have the same vibe as other alpha cities like New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami. Milquetoast Minnesota also lacks the cultural flavor of southern cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Memphis. Usually, if a veteran player ends up in Minnesota, they were exiled to the NBA’s version of the boondocks in a trade, or had no other place to go.
Not Feeling Minnesota
How can a city like Minneapolis that produced music legends like Prince and The Replacements have such a terrible basketball team? Sometimes, a franchise is just doomed from the start.
The Timberwolves joined the NBA in 1989 as an expansion team. Between 1997 and 2004, the T-Wolves qualified for the postseason every year. However, they only advanced out of the first round in the postseason once. During the 2003-04 season, Kevin Garnett and the T-Wolves lost to Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers in the 2004 Western Conference finals.
|Bad Minnesota Timberwolves|
The Timberwolves qualified for the playoffs only once since 2004, and posted just one winning season since 2004-05. The T-Wolves went 47-35 in the 2017-18 season under Thibodeau and qualified for the #8 seed. They were knocked out of the 2018 postseason by the Houston Rockets in five games.
Since 2004, the bottom-feeding Timberwolves had three seasons in which they were the worst team in the Western Conference. The T-Wolves also played two disappointing seasons when they were the second-worst team in the West.