Already flanked by Wolves owner Glen Taylor and CEO Ethan Casson at his introductory news conference Monday, new President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas was joined by two more special guests at Target Center: His 3-year-old twins, son Grayson and daughter Giana.
The little ones scooted away from Rosas’ wife, Susana, and wandered on stage amid discussions of how Rosas would help transform the Wolves roster. Rosas scooped both of them up and kept talking — showing a willingness to adapt on the fly that he will need in order to succeed in an organization where so many others have failed.
“I want to make it clear, my time in Houston was very special, but this is not going to be Houston North,” said Rosas, 40, who spent almost all of the past 17 years with the Rockets, who have come to be known for their analytics-based approach. “I believe in the balance of basketball and analytics. That marriage goes hand in hand. We won’t focus one way or the other. We want to make educated decisions. One thing I’ll bring from Houston is we’re going to question the norm with everything that we do.”
Taylor said Rosas checked several boxes — many of which, intentionally or not, made it sound like Rosas was the antithesis of former head coach/president Tom Thibodeau, who was fired in the middle of last season.
“I wanted someone that could work with the entire staff. Not only the players but the whole organization,” said Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune. “Somebody that felt like they were part of the team and they knew what teamwork meant.”
Rosas laid out a vision for a franchise that has made the playoffs just once since 2004, though in some cases Monday served as a guidepost more than a day for concrete answers about pressing questions.
When asked about the status of interim head coach Ryan Saunders and General Manager Scott Layden — both of whom were in attendance Monday, along with Josh Okogie and a handful of other Wolves players — Rosas was noncommittal.
”I look forward now to sitting down and visiting with them and talking about the organization,” Rosas said. “That’s a major objective we want to address here sooner rather than later.”
Casson, who spearheaded the search that led to the hiring of Rosas out of a pool of 30 interested applicants and three other finalists, said there is no mandate that Rosas must keep either Saunders or Layden.
But speaking specifically of Saunders and Taylor’s favorable view of the young coach, Casson said: “Certainly it’s been well-publicized Glen’s point of view on Ryan. I think everybody has been very supportive of the job he’s done; in fact, I think he’s done an incredible job.”
A decision on Saunders and Layden could come quickly — perhaps within a few days, with the NBA’s elite prospect camp and draft lottery slated for next week in Chicago.
Building the Wolves’ roster, though, is a process that will play out over a much longer time period. Casson noted the Wolves have some “challenges with flexibility” given that five players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng and Robert Covington — are under contract for more than $100 million combined next season.
Rosas indicated there won’t be any shortcuts, but he also stressed that there are ways the Wolves can improve both from within and from outside the organization.
“I think you’re going to see a different tone from this administration and part of it is going to be we have to maximize every resource — draft, free agency, trades, what we have on the roster in terms of player development,” Rosas said. “We have to be creative. … We have to set ourselves apart by creating the most talented roster we could put together.”
A huge key to the roster is Wiggins, who still has four years and $121 million remaining on his max contract but shot a career-low 41.2% last season.
“I’ve spoken with Andrew. He’s very motivated about this. He’s very excited about it,” Rosas said. “We are going to work him day in and day out, investing with him in every way possible to make him the best player. The reality is this, if I go out on the market to get a player, I’m not going to find a player that’s got a bigger upside than Andrew.”