The rapid response to the Timberwolves’ decision to hire Gersson Rosas as their basketball boss was largely positive, both from the media and in public comments. This is based on the idea that owner Glen Taylor and his new favorite executive, team president Ethan Casson, have gone beyond the chummy confines of the Target Center/Mayo Clinic Square complex to hire an outsider.
Of course, the Timberwolves also went outside those walls to hire Tom Thibodeau as both the basketball boss and coach following the 2015-16 season. Thibodeau had served two seasons as a young assistant to Bill Musselman, but The Muss was fired in 1991 and Thibs had no true connection to Taylor’s organization.
Casson had much to do with Taylor’s decision to fire Thibodeau in the middle of this past season. I’d guess that part of the selling point for the mid-season axe was the decline in attendance, which the boss of a business operation obviously would find more convenient to place on a coach unpopular with fans than on a misplaced decision to follow the first playoff season in 14 years with a substantial rise in ticket prices for many seats.
The Jimmy Butler fiasco certainly did turn off any ticket buyers still on the fence, and it was going to get Thibodeau fired in January or April. Casson led the charge to have Taylor do it sooner rather than later.
The Timberwolves were 19-21 (.475) when Thibodeau was fired and went 17-25 (.405) with the inexperienced Ryan Saunders as the interim coach. There were numerous injuries down the stretch, offering an excuse much-embraced by Saunders backers and Thibs bashers for the contrast in wins and losses.
Either way, there was no improvement in the consistency of Wolves play or effort to recommend the return of Saunders as coach – not with a proven commodity such as Dave Joerger having been made available by Sacramento, where the wacky Vlade Divac runs the Kings.
We’re supposed to be excited because Rosas comes from an organization that’s into analytics (not as much the Holy Grail in basketball as in baseball, but gaining steam) and has a team that shoots more threes than any in the NBA.
Sorry. I’m not a big believer in shooting 40 threes with a roster with Gorgui Dieng as one of your marksmen, rather than the Rockets lefty with the beard.
Rosas handled the G League and international scouting for the Rockets, and he should be able to bring a couple of fine H-O-R-S-E players into the Wolves’ mix for next season.
Yet, what’s most important this summer is to fix the Andrew Wiggins’ problem, in the strong likelihood that Wiggins has to stay. There was no evidence that Saunders had any more answers to offer on the mysteries of Wiggy World than did his predecessor.
One late-breaking mystery was why Andrew decided to play with full interest in a final few meaningless games. Is that what it takes to fire up Wiggy? Get him on the court when nothing matters and look out.
Assuming Saunders winds up as the coach, there will be attempts to link this with Derek Falvey being instructed by Twins ownership to keep Paul Molitor for the last season of his contract as manager, when Falvey was announced as the baseball boss in November 2016.
Paul Molitor, Hall of Famer, savant in playing the game, four decades in big leagues and then the Twins organization, vs. Ryan Saunders, ordered to be retained as an assistant and given little responsibility with Thibodeau; yeah, that’s quite a valid comparison in resume.
If Rosas comes in here and says he took a hard look at the options and young Mr. Saunders was the clear choice to continue as coach, I am not going to believe him. I’ll believe, instead, that not all that much has changed in the Timberwolves’ operation, where chumminess has been a much-admired quality.
Which in retrospect makes it a surprise that the previous basketball boss was ever hired … what with chummy being way down the list of Thibs’ strengths.
As for Saunders, a very fine young man, I'd offer him a chance to coach the G League team in Des Moines, and thus demonstrate his potential to lead an NBA team.