A month ago, Chris Finch walked into a near-impossible situation that he was nonetheless ready to embrace: taking over a 7-24 Timberwolves team in the middle of a pandemic-impacted NBA season, and doing it while coming over as an assistant from an entirely different organization (Toronto).
The well-traveled Finch, who spent more than a decade as a head coach overseas before spending more than another decade either as a G League head coach or NBA assistant, joined Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast to talk about his career path, his vision for the Timberwolves and, perhaps most importantly, how he views both the potential and the progress of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
Here are a few of the key takeaways from our conversation:
On whether he imagined he would ever be a head coach in the NBA: "When I got to the NBA I had to learn the league and had to learn really how to be an assistant coach. I had never been an assistant coach before I became one with the Rockets. Finding my niche as an assistant, it's a very different role and approach and the relationships you have with players are very different so I had to adjust to that. Once I learned the league and I became comfortable, within a couple years I felt confident I would be able to be a head coach in this league – certainly from a leadership point of view."
On what he learned as the Wolves went 0-5 in his first five games before the break and what has helped them play better since the break: Those five games were definitely a learning process. Me learning the team, me learning the personnel, trying to sort through the things they had done well or needed to improve on or we needed to change. There wasn't a lot of strategy in those games, to be fair. It was almost like a preseason approach. Chopped and changed the lineups. Tried to have a real bare bones approach offensively. Tried to pick up the pace a little bit. Pick up lineup combinations we thought might be useful.
"The things we were able to address coming out of the break were our defensive approach in terms of protecting the paint. We wanted to switch that around. We were every good at protecting the three-point line but not the paint. If you look at the top defenses in the league these days most of them are really selling out to protect the paint and protect the rim. (Note: The Wolves were second-worst in the league in paint points allowed before the break; they are No. 12 since the break) … I think those two weeks were really tough emotional weeks for our team, our organization, our players. A lot of our young players had played well previously so they felt some anxiety about how this change was going to impact them. I think the break did everybody good just to clear their head. I've been mostly pleased with our approach and competitiveness coming out of the break."
On Monday's loss to Oklahoma City, probably the Wolves' worst game since the break: "One thing I learned quickly in the league is you can't let one loss become two by dwelling on things. ... We've had some success but not anywhere near what we're trying to become. You can't just say let's win — 1-2-3 win – without being prepared to do the things it takes to win."
On No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards: "I think he's got a really, really high ceiling. I do think he's worthy of the No. 1 pick and he's absolutely the right pick for this franchise certainly. We love his personality, his approach, his innocence if you will. Heneeds to learn some habits about competitiveness through all parts of the game. Understanding that as a top player — whether that's in the league or on a specific franchise — you are going to set the tone for how the team plays whether you like it or not. And he has that ability.
"We don't expect him to go out and get 42 (points) every night … but we also need him to kind of value some of the smaller pieces of the game. We think he can be a better defender. We know he can be a better rebounder. We know he can get in transition more. These are things that don't necessarily take skill, they just take application. He's learning that the NBA game, you play all the time, but he's learning that with success comes more responsibility. Because you're now a focal point of game plans. He's seeing a few defensive looks since his 42 (point) night that until he solves, he's going to continue to struggle and we might as well."