CHICAGO – The National Basketball Coaches Association added its voice to the chorus of those criticizing the Timberwolves for an abrupt search process that led President Gersson Rosas to firing coach Ryan Saunders and hiring his replacement, Chris Finch, within a 24-hour period.
In a statement from President Rick Carlisle and Executive Director David Fogel, the group said it "would be remiss not to acknowledge a deeper concern and level of disappointment with the Minnesota head coach hiring process."
At the root of the criticism is the apparent lack of a search process that would have given an opportunity to Black or other minority coaches a chance to interview for the job.
"The NBCA understands and respects each organization's right to hire and fire whomever and whenever it chooses," the statement said. "But it is also our responsibility to point out when an organization fails to conduct a thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.
"During this past offseason, we saw many NBA head coaching vacancies where teams led searches that were both diverse and transparent. This must be the standard. We must establish a level playing field and equal access to opportunity for all coaching candidates."
In particular, Rosas has drawn criticism for passing over associate head coach David Vanterpool, who is Black and interviewed for the job two years ago along with Finch and Saunders.
Rosas, the first Latino to run the basketball operations of an NBA team, addressed those critiques during a news conference Monday and said the difficulty of conducting a search during a pandemic was one reason for the speed with which he made the move to hire Finch. He also said he relied on the interview process in 2019 to inform his decision.
"There were other candidates, minority candidates we considered at this time," Rosas said. "Unfortunately when you're in the middle of a season, you're really at the mercy of teams in terms of who can become available and who's not available. That was a challenge for us as we went through the process.
"In terms of not only David Vanterpool but Pablo Prigioni and other assistants on our staff, we looked at those as internal options as well, but at the end of the day, where we're at, we have to be realistic with ourselves. We've got the worst record in the NBA."
Rosas also pointed to the front office and staff he has assembled, which features three minority executives, including Executive Vice President Sachin Gupta, the No. 2 in the organization, and three Black assistant coaches on Finch's staff.
On Tuesday, Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns said he was "extremely happy" to play for Finch while acknowledging he hoped Vanterpool gets a chance to be a head coach.
"Men of color deserve to have a chance to get their opportunity to be a head coach in this league," Towns said. "I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing work he's done and what he's meant to this organization."
Happy for LaVine
Towns said he was thrilled to see former Wolves teammate Zach LaVine make the Eastern Conference All-Star roster. LaVine entered Tuesday averaging 28.6 points per game for Chicago.
"I was so excited for him," Towns said. "I can't wait to see him and just hug him up and tell him in person how proud I am of him. … This game, it swallows you and it could just spit out a whole different version of you. And for Zach to come out on the side of just not only elevating himself as a player but as a man, that means a lot to me."
• Jarrett Culver was available to play a minutes restriction of about 15 minutes on Wednesday, Finch said, but he did not take the floor.
• The NBA released the Wolves' second-half schedule, which begins March 11 at New Orleans and ends May 16 at home against Dallas.