In less than two days Chris Finch has gone from being one of the next big things, to getting his first head coaching job in the NBA, to the prospect of diving headlong into taking over a Timberwolves team with the worst record in the league at midseason.
Don't take a breath, Coach. Back-to-back starting Tuesday in Milwaukee.
"This is less than an ideal situation for a coach,'' Finch admitted Monday afternoon, in Milwaukee with his new boss, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. "We don't have a summer. We don't have a preseason. We've got a back-to-back. But that's life in some of the leagues that I've coached in.''
Finch, 51, has a multileague and multinational résumé. He has won titles in two leagues on two continents. He has run the entire show for the Sheffield Sharks of the British Basketball League and he led the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the NBA Development League title in 2010, when Rosas was the team's GM. He spent 10 years in the NBA as an assistant coach for four teams, building a reputation as a creative offensive mind.
A runner-up for the Wolves job two years ago, Finch has finally arrived.
"Someone told me a long time ago that overnight success takes 10 years,'' Finch said. "And it's been 10 years for me that I've been in the league. Nothing happens quickly. The reality is the work you put in and journey is really the most rewarding part. Thrilled to death to be here."
That said, Finch will face many of the same challenges as his predecessor, Ryan Saunders. With D'Angelo Russell still on the mend, he and Karl-Anthony Towns still have played just five games together since being paired on the roster.
The Wolves are 7-24, and struggling to score and finish games. Finch is going to have to draw on all of his experience.
Sounds like he can't wait.
"I think we can breathe some confidence back into the roster," Finch said. "And these guys can maybe find some joy. It's a hard league to win in, and it's very close. But we're not a million miles away. ... The job was appealing because it's a great opportunity with a good, young roster. I think it's the right time to take steps forwards and develop an identity."
But there is ground to make up. Perhaps his biggest challenge is taking a roster that appears to be made for a more static, pick-and-roll game and adapting it to his style. Finch favors a more creative, fast-paced, read-and-react style of offense.
It can be done, Finch said. There is room to play fast and play pick-and-roll. The key is when and where, with perhaps unexpected combinations and places on the floor.
"What I've learned about coaching is trying to create a structure with some rules, and then get out of the way and let these guys be who they are,'' Finch said. "Because they're phenomenal players, and overcoaching them, at times, is probably more detrimental than undercoaching them. We want to get them to play free, enjoy it, share the ball and share space on the floor."
And that starts with Towns. Finch and his center talked Sunday night as it was all happening. Finch, who has worked with such big men as Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and DeMarcus Cousins as an assistant, said he told Towns he has to be the offense's absolute main man.
"It's obviously a tough moment for anyone when there's a change in the organization,'' Finch said. "But we talked about how I think we can get him back to being the center point of this team. You don't often get that type of skill package in this league, and when you have it, and the way the game has trended in the modern game with spacing and the skill and the speed, he should be at the center of everything.''
Finch said he wants to maximize Russell's ability to close games and to encourage his playmaking ability.
But, jumping in on the fly, expectations should be tempered. Finch said big changes can't be made right away, but tweaks can be made. "I think a lot of the game in the NBA is similar,'' he said. "Teams are doing a lot of similar things right now. It's really kind of the emphasis you put on them. We have to make it a priority to maximize our best players."