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Wolves fire Saunders; to hire Finch, sources say

11:04 PM ET

The Minnesota Timberwolves are finalizing a multiyear deal on Monday to make Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch the franchise’s new coach, sources told ESPN.

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas fired Ryan Saunders on Sunday, clearing the way for Minnesota to eschew an interim coach and move quickly toward hiring a full-time replacement.

Rosas informed Saunders of the decision after a 103-99 loss to the New York Knicks that left the Timberwolves at 7-24, the worst record in the NBA.

Rosas kept Saunders as his head coach after getting hired in May of 2019, a process that included interviewing Finch for the job. Rosas and Finch have history back to their days together in the Houston Rockets organization.

Finch is expected to begin the job on Tuesday in Milwaukee with Saunders’ coaching staff in place, including associate head coach David Vanterpool and assistants Bryan Gates and Pablo Prigioni, sources said.

Finch has been an assistant coach with Houston, Denver, New Orleans and Toronto, and won a G-League title with Rio Grande Valley in 2010. Toronto hired Finch in the offseason as Nick Nurse’s top assistant, but wouldn’t stand in his way to accept a head coaching job during the season, sources said.

No assistant coach has moved up to a head coaching job with a new team during the season since Memphis hired Lionel Hollins from Milwaukee in 2009.

Rosas didn’t want to spend the season with an interim coach, sources said, wanting to maximize the development of a veteran core around All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, Malik Beasley, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, who’s out with knee surgery.

Saunders was 43-94 as coach of the Timberwolves in two-plus seasons as coach. He was only able to coach his two All-Star players, Towns and Russell, in five games since the franchise traded for Russell in February of 2019.

Minnesota was hit hard with injuries and COVID-19 issues this season. Russell played 20 games before recently undergoing left knee surgery that’ll sideline him for the next four-to-six weeks. Towns has only played 11 games this season between a wrist injury and contracting COVID-19.

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