Wolves' Gersson Rosas walks down gauntlet to hire Chris Finch as coach – The Athletic
Finch is the coach whom Rosas believes can turn things around for the team with the worst record in the league, and no amount of criticism for a lack of a formal search process that included any candidates of color or for the timing of hiring Finch right on top of firing Saunders was going to dissuade Rosas from making the decision he deemed to be necessary and right.
“At the end of the day, where we’re at, we have to be realistic with ourselves,” Rosas said. “We got the worst record in the NBA. We’re struggling on both sides of the ball, and we really lacked the confidence as a result of that, and we can get the real change we needed by making the decision we made here. We needed to be bold and direct with this opportunity.”
The hiring of Finch is further testament to Rosas’ unshakeable belief in his vision. In times like these, when an executive has had a difficult time getting traction with his plan and finds his team flailing near the bottom of the standings, there can often be an overcorrection. If a novice head coach is fired (see: Kurt Rambis), the replacement is often a proven veteran (Rick Adelman). If the fired coach was a taskmaster (Tom Thibodeau), a players’ coach (Saunders). If an offensive coach didn’t work out (Flip Saunders), maybe try a defensive-minded one (Dwane Casey).
But in tabbing Finch, Rosas is doubling down on his philosophy. Rosas and Finch have known each other more than a decade and teamed up to win a developmental league title for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the Houston Rockets organization in 2010. The two helped push the envelope from a scoring and analytics standpoint in the minor leagues and ultimately were a part of the Rockets team led by Daryl Morey, Mike D’Antoni and James Harden that changed the face of offense in the NBA.
“Everything happens for a reason. This is a place I really want to be. This is a place I wanted to be in 2019,” Finch said. “Not every situation is for every candidate. And that’s just part of the process.”
The process is what is drawing so much scrutiny right now. Rosas said the timing and the circumstances, including the strict restrictions placed on teams during the season to try to limit the spread of COVID-19, made it difficult for him to conduct any kind of an open search for the job. The Wolves were at the whim of teams to grant permission for coaches on their staffs under contract to interview, which Rosas said limited the field. So rather than reopen things with a fresh search to find Saunders’ successor, Rosas went back to the due diligence done for his initial coaching search in 2019. He interviewed Finch, Saunders, David Vanterpool, Juwan Howard and Darvin Ham, among others, before ultimately deciding to retain Saunders, whose relationships with Taylor and team focal points Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins figured to help Rosas transition into the job.
At the time, Rosas was interested in adding Finch as an associate head coach, but the New Orleans Pelicans blocked that move, sources told The Athletic. So Rosas and Saunders made Vanterpool the top lieutenant and put him in charge of coordinating the defense. That Vanterpool was not elevated to interim coach when Saunders was fired after spending the last 18 months on staff was worrisome to some in the league. That there was no consideration of any candidates of color at all in a unilateral hiring process was of even larger concern.
“Anybody that knows me knows how important diversity is to me, and it’s a big part of who I am and what I’m about,” Rosas said. “Our staff and the diversity we have speaks for itself.”