When the Timberwolves and CEO Ethan Casson set out to interview four candidates to fill the vacant president of basketball operations job, Casson said they expected perhaps two of those candidates would advance to an in-person discussion with owner Glen Taylor.
After the Wolves got done with those interviews Monday, Casson and his team convened Tuesday to discuss which candidates might advance. They had only one name in mind — Gersson Rosas, the former Rockets executive who was offered and accepted the job after he and his wife, Susana, visited with Taylor and his wife, Becky, at their home in Mankato.
“The thing that stood out to me the most,” Casson told the Star Tribune, “was it felt like we were sitting across from somebody that wasn’t interviewing for a president of basketball operations position. It felt like we were sitting across from somebody interviewing for the Timberwolves president of basketball operations position. He came in with a very holistic approach.”
That meant Rosas had an intimate knowledge not just of the roster but of the team’s history, the marketplace, front office. He laid out a vision for how to develop players, on the court and off the court. Rosas no doubt did his research, but his 16 years in the Rockets organization wearing many different hats — from intern to video coordinator to vice president — created a mind and know-how ready to assume this role.
“This feels like not only the type of person we want to go to the next step with but somebody that has an incredible capacity to lead us inside this next chapter of the Timberwolves story, Timberwolves history,” Casson said. “He has a vision for us. He articulated a vision and by all accounts, this is somebody we really believe can execute on that vision.”
Rosas emerged from an initial pool of candidates that included 25 to 30 names, Casson said. That list became four in-person interviews, with Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth making their way to Minnesota over the past two weeks. Casson said each interview lasted from around 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and featured people from different facets of the organization. At the end of each day, the candidates spoke to Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, by phone. Casson said he was impressed with all the candidates and the depth of their preparation and research, but Rosas stood out in part because of how he spoke about collaborating across all departments, how not having blinders when it came to the basketball operations can help the Wolves. That’s something that wasn’t always present under former coach and president Tom Thibodeau.
“He really gravitated toward the spirit of alignment, spoke quite a bit around collaboration and those are really key attributes to any successful leader,” Casson said. “That’s not to take the place of building a championship-caliber team, which is absolutely the priority, but it’s to complement that. We found that in Gersson. He’s dynamic.”
Casson said the dynamic of the interviews involved the candidates asking a lot of questions about the Wolves and getting a feel for the organization. The questions had ranged from the state of the organization and the fan base, what it’s like to work with Taylor and other members of the organization, and questions about the roster.
Casson said Rosas’ experience in helping build the Rockets into a championship contender alongside GM Daryl Morey played a role in the Wolves hiring him. Rosas helped mold the Rockets scouting staff across both the professional and college levels and did extensive work with Houston’s G League team. Rosas also served briefly as GM of the Mavericks but left Dallas after three months after not getting the kind of authority he was anticipating.
“His capacity and his journey, it’s hard-pressed to find somebody that not only has that level of experience, but … he’s coming from one of the most winningest franchises in the NBA certainly in the last couple of decades,” Casson said.
Rosas now has the purview to mold the franchise in the image he wants. That includes who will be in the key positions of general manager and head coach, currently occupied by Scott Layden and Ryan Saunders, respectively. Rosas will have the authority to make changes all across facets of the operation. Casson deferred questions on Layden and Saunders’ status to Rosas, who will hold his first news conference Monday.
“This is somebody that wants to partner,” Casson said. “This is somebody that wants to come in and it’s not about him. … Long-term and short-term, he wants to partner with the front office and leaders throughout our organization and that’s something we’re really excited about.”