Timberwolves

Chris Finch Is Not Your Enemy

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

In Dante’s Inferno, the 14th-century Italian know-it-all Dante Alighieri described in great detail nine circles of hell that sinners like you and I will be damned to for all of eternity. As Minnesota Timberwolves fans, we will be assigned circle number five, “Wrath.” It seems like a lovely place where we will lie beneath the water “in a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe.” Dante must have been watching the last three minutes of the Denver Nuggets game on Wednesday because that’s where we’ve been all season.

Right when the Wolves take a step in the right direction, and we think they’ve finally figured things out, they take two steps back and leave us empty, wishing they had never taken the step forward in the first place. Through all the blown leads, missed threes, bonehead turnovers, invisible defense, injuries, and lack of effort, the avalanche of blame is crashing down on one man, Chris Finch.

Still not even two years into the job, Finchy has started to wear out his welcome with the Timberwolves fans. I get it. The optics are not great. Too often, the team looks lost on offense or defense, showed hardly any effort the first 25 games of the season, and throw the ball away more than any team except the lowly Houston Rockets and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. Expectations were so high after almost making the second round of the playoffs and trading for Rudy Gobert in the offseason.

We all know how things have gone this season: Rudy sucks, D’Angelo Russell sucks, Karl-Anthony Town’s calf sucks, and Anthony Edwards is a precious gift who maybe didn’t leap as far as we wanted this year. A talented Wolves team has been bobbing around .500 for 47 games. Finch has spent the opening half of the season trying to unlock the Rudy-KAT frontcourt, filling holes left by injured players, and generally looking a little confused on the sidelines when a 15-point lead evaporates before he even calls a timeout.

This season isn’t what we hoped for, and we want to blame someone when things don’t go as planned. Finch deserves his share of the blame, but I’m afraid we’ve gone too far as a fanbase calling for his job. To be fair, it’s only a few rumblings on the timeline so far, but the wave of #FinchOut is one loss to the Rockets away from trending. I get the frustration, and I’m frustrated too, but calling for the head of the third-best coach in Timberwolves history is dumb as hell.

This isn’t the Premier League where fans of a mid-table club in some one-horse town that doesn’t pronounce half the letters in its name in the Midlands demand their manager gets fired because they tied Brighton in their 12,000-seat stadium that was built in 1934. This is the NBA, where mediocre coaches get to ride out eight years of first-round exits before the absentee owner decides it’s time for a change. If you don’t like it, be my guest. Leicester is anything but lovely this time of year.

In all seriousness, Finch isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’m not out here trying to say he’s the next Phil Jackson, but here are all the things that have happened in his 23 months on the job:

  • He was brought into a 7-24 team in the middle of a season, which is highly unusual, and had to deal with the fallout from Gersson Rosas passing over David Vanterpool for the interim job.
  • He didn’t get a first-round draft pick in 2020 because Rosas had to get D’Angelo Russell at all costs.
  • The man who hired him got fired for having an affair with a co-worker.
  • He still led the Wolves to their second playoff appearance since 2004.
  • Towns lost his mind and blew the first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies that the Wolves should have won 5-1.
  • His new permanent boss big-dicked his way into the modern-day version of the Herschel Walker trade.
  • Anthony Edwards showed up to training camp heavier than Karl-Anthony Towns.
  • Towns has missed the last 26 games with a calf injury.

I’m not here to pass the blame, but just like Will Hunting, it’s not his fault. The one time he had all of his tools to work with the Wolves won 46 games and rolled out the best offense in the league from January 1st on.

There is a precedent for Minnesota Timberwolves head coaches to get fired the year after making the playoffs. The Wolves fired Flip Saunders 51 games into the 2004-05 season, a year after making it to the Western Conference Finals, all because Kevin McHale thought he could do better. They fired Tom Thibodeau halfway through the 2018-19 season because nobody liked him and Jimmy Butler took a dump in his cereal. So unless Ant turns full heel and turns on his coach, Finch should be safe at least into next season.

That’s not to say things can’t improve. The Wolves are 26th in points per possession after a timeout, and those timeouts often come too late after a big run by the opponents. But for better or worse, Chris Finch is the best option the Wolves have at the moment, and it’s time we turn down the heat for the next few months. This team is still entrenched in the playoff picture, and if Towns can come back at full strength and Gobert shakes off getting too smalled by a 19-year-old, the Wolves can still salvage the season. And if that happens we better sing Finch’s praises because we’ll be moving up the fourth circle of hell, “Greed.”

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