- The Minnesota Timberwolves have fired head coach Ryan Saunders.
- Minnesota hired Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch to a multi-year deal.
- Saunders was the odds on favorite to become the first head coach fired.
The Minnesota Timberwolves fired head coach Ryan Saunders on Sunday, replacing him with Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch, whom they signed to a multi-year deal.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 22, 2021
Finch was the D-League Coach of the Year in 2010. He spent time with the Pelicans, Nuggets, and Rockets before joining Nick Nurse’s staff in Toronto last December.
Saunders had been with Minnesota since 2014 as an assistant before he was promoted to head coach in 2019 after Tom Thibodeau was fired. In two plus seasons as head coach, the 34-year old posted a record of 43-94 (.314) in 137 games coached. The Wolves missed the playoffs in the last two seasons and currently have he worst record in the league this season.
Betting Favorite to Get Fired First
Updated First Coach Fired odds via @betonline_ag
Ryan Saunders: 2/1
Dwane Casey: 9/4
Scott Brooks: 5/2
Luke Walton: 4/1
Steve Clifford: 6/1
Mike Budenholzer: 12/1
Terry Stotts: 16/1
James Borrego: 25/1
Lloyd Pierce: 25/1
Rick Carlisle: 33/1
Erik Spoelstra: 33/1
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) February 4, 2021
Saunders’ ouster didn’t come as a surprise. With Minnesota’s terrible start to the 2020-21 season, the best NBA betting sites listed him as the odds on favorite to become the first NBA head coach to be fired this season, with BetOnline.ag listing him at 2/1, ahead of Detroit’s Dwane Casey who was listed at 9/4.
With the number 1 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft joining their young duo of Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, the Minnesota Timberwolves believed they had a shot at making the postseason. Minnesota has made the playoff just once in the previous 16 seasons, doing so in 2017-18 with Jimmy Butler leading them. With the third youngest lineup in the league, they added Ricky Rubio who spent his first six season with Minnesota.
But things have not gone as planned.Karl Anthony Towns has played in just 11 games this season due to injuries and COVID-19. Anthony Edwards has shown flashes of brilliance but is averaging 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game and is being overshadowed by LaMelo Ball. After losing to the Knicks on Sunday, the Wolves are just 7-24 on the season.
Yet to See Full Potential of the Team
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 22, 2021
But while critics can blame Saunders for running a dysfunctional offense and not putting Anthony Edwards in positions where he can best succeed, the fact is that we have yet to see the full potential of the current team.
Minnesota was projected to win 35-36 games and become a factor in the Western Conference playoff race. They started the season 2-0, dealing the Utah Jazz one of their two losses at Salt Lake City this season. But Towns suffered a wrist injury and missed six games. He returned to play a pair of games and then tested positive for COVID-19 which kept him out for a month. By the time KAT got back, the Wolves were 6-18 and lost they D’Lo to a knee injury.
When the Wolves dealt Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors, they envisioned a 1-2 punch of KAT and D’Lo. However, the two have played together in a total of five out of a possible 45 games in Minnesota. With Saunders now gone, we can only imagine how good ( or not?) they would be had the team been healthier.