The leadership of the National Basketball Coaches Association spoke out Wednesday about its “concern and level of disappointment” with the way the Minnesota Timberwolves went about their coaching change earlier this week.
The statement came from NBCA president Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks and NBCA executive director David Fogel.
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“The NBCA understands and respects each organization’s right to hire and fire whomever and whenever it chooses,” said their statement, first released only to ESPN before being distributed to other outlets. “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.”
The Timberwolves fired Ryan Saunders on Sunday night and struck a deal to hire Toronto assistant Chris Finch almost immediately. Finch was formally announced as the coach Monday morning.
“There were other candidates, minority candidates we considered at this time,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson 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.”
Minnesota lost at Milwaukee on Tuesday night in Finch’s first game. The Wolves were in Chicago to play on Wednesday night.
Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool has support from several NBA players, many of whom expressed anger that he did not get the job or, at minimum, the appearance of being considered for the role. Vanterpool is Black. Finch is white.
“During this past offseason, we saw many NBA head coaching vacancies where teams led searches that were both diverse and transparent,” Fogel and Carlisle wrote in their statement. “This must be the standard. We must establish a level playing field and equal access to opportunity for all coaching candidates.”
They said they have been working with the league office “on a wide range of initiatives that will improve future coaching searches,” but did not specify what any of those may include.
Finch interviewed for the Minnesota job in 2019, before Saunders was promoted from interim coach to the full-time role, so the organization was well aware of his style and credentials. He also has a long history with Rosas; they worked together in the Houston Rockets organization.
Rosas is Latino, one of few minorities in front-office roles around the league.
“Anybody that knows me knows how important diversity is to me and it’s a big part of who I am and what I’m about,” Rosas said. “Our staff and the diversity we have speaks for itself.”
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Vanterpool is one of three Black assistant coaches on the Timberwolves, along with Joseph Blair and Kevin Burleson. Star center Karl-Anthony Towns was one of the players who spoke out in favor of Vanterpool’s future.
“I would not be doing justice to the world, to social justice, to the amount of amazing things that men of color are doing, by not mentioning that David Vanterpool is an amazing coach, with an amazing IQ, and he’s going to have an amazing opportunity here soon,” Towns said.