A tumultuous Minnesota Timberwolves season has finally seen a sea change in its coaching staff.
Chris Finch was brought in after former head coach Ryan Saunders was oustered mid-season to try and turn things around. While much has been made of whether or not this was the right move (it was) or an ethical maneuver by Gersson Rosas, the Timberwolves’ general manager finally has his preferred coach.
Rosas has also given Finch control over the rest of the coaching staff. This offseason, with the departure of defensive coordinator David Vanterpool, Finch will be able to reconstruct parts of the staff in his favor. The franchise finally appears to be in a position where people have enough say to go get their guy, and it will be enlightening to see who Rosas and Finch select to fill Vanterpool’s position.
In addition to hiring a new defensive coordinator for the team, the franchise will also be looking for a new head coach for its G-League affiliate. It was announced that Sam Newman-Beck, coach of the Iowa Wolves, will not be returning. This ends an eight-plus-year affiliation with the Timberwolves franchise for Newman-Beck, who served in various roles throughout his time in Minnesota.
Newman-Beck spent the last two seasons coaching the Iowa Wolves, beginning when Saunders was officially appointed head coach of the Timberwolves. Now that Newman-Beck is not returning, the last vestiges of Saunders’ tenure are dissipating. This team is that much closer to being the full realization of Rosas’ vision, and part of that vision undoubtedly includes the correct pieces and system being implemented in the Timberwolves’ G-League affiliate.
Why This Matters
You’d be forgiven if you don’t know who Newman-Beck is. Prior to his 2019 appointment as the coach of the Iowa Wolves, he served as a Timberwolves video scout coordinator from 2010-18. When former head coach Tom Thibodeau was fired and replaced with Saunders, Rosas rehired Newman-Beck on staff as the Iowa Wolves’ coach after a one-year stint with the Erie BayHawks.
This was a move that falls in line with Rosas’ plan for how the Timberwolves franchise will operate moving forward. From the minute Rosas was hired, he has preached the importance of a consistent and vertical alignment with the G-League affiliate. Knowing Rosas and Finch’s history together, this mentality makes sense.
Rosas and Finch initially worked together for the Rio Grande Vipers, the Houston Rockets’ G-League affiliate. Rosas was the general manager and Finch was the coach of a Vipers team that won the G-League title in 2010. They understand the importance of developing players within a G-League system that runs parallel to its NBA counterpart, so if players get called up on a two-way contract or otherwise, they will be able to plug in and contribute immediately.
We have seen this philosophy pay major dividends during Rosas’ tenure with the Timberwolves. Newman-Beck ran an identical offensive and defensive system in Iowa to the one Saunders ran in Minnesota. This allowed younger players to get comfortable with those systems before they were called up to play for the Timberwolves.
This systemic alignment allowed players like Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell, and Jordan McLaughlin to flourish in their first couple seasons with the Timberwolves. While they would initially spend early-season time with the Iowa Wolves, injuries and other roster ineffectiveness led to them being called up to play with the senior team. Due to the parallel coaching schemes at both levels, these players had the best opportunity to succeed.
With the new coaching vacancy in Iowa, Rosas will be looking to work directly with Finch to make a hire that will allow young players to learn and grow in sync with the Timberwolves. Considering the youth of the Timberwolves as a whole, it is imperative that the younger players on the fringes of the roster get opportunities for valuable playing time down in Iowa.
The lack of G-League connection certainly did not do the Timberwolves any favors last year. As the roster seemed to have too many young pieces that were vying for playing time, the availability to send players back and forth would have been crucial in the continued development of one of the youngest rosters in the league. For instance, the struggling Jarrett Culver would have been a prime candidate to play some time in Iowa.
Now that the world is beginning to return to normal, we will once again be able to see the importance of the Iowa Wolves and their relation to the senior team. Rosas and Finch will vet their coaching candidates to ensure that the systems in Iowa represent what is being run in Minnesota as closely as possible. The developmental prospects will be significantly better off for it.
It has long been said that Rosas is a master of working on the fringes of the roster. His work with the Iowa Wolves helps prove that. Expect more big things in store for the Timberwolves’ G-League affiliate as they search for their new head coach.