Last week, I gave some reasoning why the Minnesota Timberwolves have reason to be optimistic. As I stated earlier, I’m generally an optimist. In that vein, the Wolves have a few pieces that can at least provide some excitement for the rest of this season into next.
That being said, the actions taken this past weekend were just another checkmark on the resume of why the Minnesota Timberwolves just might be the worst franchise in all of professional sports.
First of all, in case you haven’t heard, head coach Ryan Saunders was fired this past Sunday. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily what’s wrong with the franchise.
Since he started as an interim head coach in the 2018/19 season, his record of 43-94 (.314%) shouldn’t dazzle anybody. The obvious caveat is that his stars D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have played less than 10 games together but sometimes you just have bad luck. Firing him is a reasonable and defensible decision.
However, the way he was let go was embarrassing at best. The Wolves were in New York and came just short of a 20 point comeback against former coach Tom Thibodeau and his Knicks squad (who are 15-16 and the 7th seed in the playoffs by the way).
After the game, it was announced that Saunders was being relieved of his coaching duties. Firing a coach on the road isn’t ideal but I guess it’s something that happens sometimes.
Almost immediately after, it was announced that the Wolves had agreed to a multi-year deal with Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch. While GM Gersson Rosas has worked with Finch for a long time and interviewed for the original head coach opening, hiring an assistant from another team midseason hasn’t happened since 2008.
On top of that, Minnesota had just played the Raptors twice in the past week.
On top of that on top of that, head coach of the Raptors Nick Nurse said that the deal came together in about 36 hours. He also said that he knew that their game Sunday against the 76’ers was going to be the last game Finch was an assistant coach for the Raptors.
So let’s get this straight. Saturday morning after the Raptors/Wolves game, the Timberwolves started working on a deal to make Finch the head coach. They let Saunders, who they knew they were going to fire, fly to New York to coach his last game. They fired him immediately after the game. They hired his replacement immediately after that.
Those are not good optics. Professional sports are certainly a tough industry and I don’t expect anyone to be babied, but treating people with respect goes a long way in running a successful franchise.
Just as badly, Karl-Anthony Towns was interviewed on Tuesday about this process. Saunders has long had the support of Towns and keeping your star happy is certainly an important piece to the puzzle of a successful franchise. At his press conference, Towns admitted that he was not consulted at all with the firing/hiring decision or at least informed ahead of time before it went public. He found out at the same time via Twitter as we all did while he was eating pizza with his dad after the game.
How are you supposed to build a franchise of trust, respect, collaboration and integrity when you let your players know that their coach (one who they at least publicly really supported and liked) is being fired via a generic press release and a half-hearted graphic on Twitter?
The moral of this lesson is that Glen Taylor needs to sell the team. Taylor, while he seems to be a nice guy, has shown too long that he doesn’t make good decisions and can’t lead a franchise to any kind of relevancy.
Aaron Gleeman pointed this repulsive stat on Twitter (@AaronGleeman) that should make fans want to dismantle the team entirely.
With Kevin Garnett in 14 seasons
- 513 wins and 457 losses
- .529 winning percentage
- 8 playoff appearances
Without Kevin Garnett in 18 seasons
- 474 wins and 1,062 losses
- .309 winning percentage
- 1 playoff appearance
On a sad yet hilarious side note, Saunders actually has improved this winning percentage ever so slightly. His percentage was .314% against the overall .309%.
The Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA this season, the worst overall winning percentage as a franchise in the league (.396%), only nine playoff appearances, two playoff series wins (both in 2004), the fewest playoff wins with 18 and the worst playoff winning percentage (.346%).
No other franchise in any other sport can rival those numbers. If the Timberwolves hadn’t stumbled into Garnett, I fear how much worse things would be. Perhaps the franchise would already be in Seattle or Las Vegas…
I reference it often, but The Common Man on KFAN always says the following about his sports teams. He wants his teams to be either historically good or biblically bad so that it is interesting either way.
However, in the case of the Timberwolves, there just might be a parade in downtown Minneapolis if the Wolves went .500 for a season. It starts with Taylor selling the team.