Timberwolves

What Does This Year's Coaching Carousel Mean For Finch and the Wolves?

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In pro sports, contending teams have a small championship window, especially in the NBA. Usually, teams have about a two- to three-year opening where their roster and coaching staff has the makeup of a championship-level ball club. Unless you are the Golden State Warriors and have the ability to dominate the league for half a decade, teams rarely get the opportunity to contend. And the ones that do often fall short of expectations.

“Obviously, losing Quin [Snyder], Quin was there for eight years, he was a big part of what we were doing,” said Rudy Gobert, explaining why the Utah Jazz were willing to trade him to Minnesota. “Sometimes, the window for winning is not always big. For us in Utah, that’s kind of what happened. I think the organization felt that we had maybe passed that window that we had over the last few years.”

As Gobert pointed out, Utah’s window to win was smaller than most teams because they play in a small market. Similar to the Jazz, Minnesota is a mid-market team that is approaching its window to contend for a championship quickly. Their roster’s overall age is starting to balance back out after they were one of the youngest teams in the league for the past few years.

Utah was able to finish with at least 44 wins every season over the last six years that Gobert was on the roster. The team’s regular season success was apparent. However, once they reached the playoffs, the Jazz began to fizzle out as they were never able to make it out of the second round during that window.

Firing Snyder after the Dallas Mavericks beat them in the second round a year ago was the first indication that Utah was going to rebuild. They didn’t dismiss Snyder because he was a poor coach. Management just felt that their window had closed, and finding a new, younger coach would be the best option. We’ve seen similar scenarios with other teams this off-season. A staggering five head coaches have already been relieved of their duties:

  • Dwane Casey, Detroit Pistons
  • Stephen Silas, Houston Rockets
  • Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
  • Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns

Many of these firings are surprising, and they have led some Timberwolves fans to believe that Chris Finch may be next because there are accomplished, battle-tested coaches to fill his spot. While fans may have been upset at certain things Finch did, replacing him would only lead to more issues.

During their exit interviews, Mike Conley and Tim Connelly raved about Finch.

Conley:

Finch was great since Day 1, very direct, very honest. He’s one of the few coaches I’ve been around in this league that was able to command a room and talk to everybody the same way, demand a lot of different guys. That bodes well with just having a team that believes in you and guys that will run through walls for you. Going forward, we’ll continue to talk with the team and continue to try to develop the best case for our team, offensively, defensively, what we can do to improve. He’s been great, he’s been trying to help me find a place to live now, so we’re working on that too.

Ever since Flip Saunders’ tragic passing in 2015, Minnesota’s front office has struggled to find a head coach that can be at the helm for more than a few years. That is until Gersson Rosas struck what seemed to be gold when he hired and eventually extended Finch.

With less than one season of head coaching under his belt, Finch was able to lead a very young Timberwolves team to their second playoff berth in 18 years. Last year, Finch’s Wolves clinched the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the second time in franchise history.

What seems to be even more important is Anthony Edwards’ relationship with Finch.

It’s hard to find any negative word about Finch and his ability to coach among the players and staff. However, some fans are still blaming him for the letdown last season.

Fans only see how coaches and players react on the court and in media scrums that are posted online. They don’t see them during the countless hours that aren’t in the public eye. Does Finch have his faults? Sure. However, one could make the argument that Finch is the best if not second-best coach in franchise history. His players rave about him and, ultimately, he has brought winning basketball back to the Twin Cities.

In my mind, I don’t see a world that would have Finch not being the coach for next season. However, as we’ve seen in the past, mid-market NBA teams’ window to contend isn’t always large, which puts pressure on coaches and players. Even though head coaches are not always the reason for their teams’ lack of success, they are usually the first to go.

Suppose the Timberwolves have a relatively healthy season next year with the proper roster adjustments made this summer and still fail to meet expectations. Then we can start talking about whether Finch’s job is in the air. However, until then, Finchy should return as head coach next season.

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