Timberwolves fire Saunders after 3 seasons

AP – The Minnesota Timberwolves fired coach Ryan Saunders on Sunday night, hours after the team with the NBA’s worst record this season lost for the eighth time in the last nine games.

A person with knowledge of the situation said that the Timberwolves were finalising plans to introduce Toronto assistant Chris Finch as the new coach. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Finch’s hiring has not been formally completed.

ESPN first reported Saunders’ dismissal and The Athletic first reported Finch’s looming hiring.

Saunders, the 34-year-old son of longtime Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was with the Timberwolves for parts of three seasons, going 43-94. Minnesota has the league’s worst record this season at 7-24 and is already seven-and-a-half games out of what would be the final play-in spot for the Western Conference postseason.

“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organisation and wish him the best in the future,” Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas said. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organisation’s short and long-term goals.”

It had been a wildly disappointing season for the Timberwolves, who started 2-0 and haven’t had much to savour since. Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s best player, dislocated his left wrist in the season’s second game and missed six games — then returned and missed 13 more after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

D’Angelo Russell, the other key piece for the Timberwolves, had surgery last week on his left knee and may be out until April.

There was no sign that the Timberwolves had stopped playing for Saunders; they were down by 21 points in the third quarter at New York earlier on Sunday, then took the lead in the final minutes before falling 103-99.