Karl-Anthony Towns: Ryan Saunders' Timberwolves Firing Was a 'Shocking Thing'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2021

Minnesota Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders shouts instructions during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

It appears the Minnesota Timberwolves even kept Karl-Anthony Towns in the dark when deciding to fire coach Ryan Saunders, with the All-Star center calling the move "shocking" in a meeting with reporters Tuesday.

"I learned when y'all found out. I was eating pizza with my father and the news came out and we were all shocked," Towns said. "I'm a very loyal guy to a fault. I would love to finish my career here in Minnesota. ... I want to build something great here. I want to build a legacy in Minnesota."

The Wolves fired Saunders on Sunday and almost immediately hired Raptors assistant Chris Finch in his place, a complete rarity in NBA circles. While teams regularly have an idea whom they want to hire in coaching searches, plucking an assistant from another team and installing him midseason is far from the norm.


Saunders went 43-94 during his Timberwolves tenure, including an NBA-worst 7-24 mark in 2020-21. The Wolves have struggled with both injuries and the coronavirus this season, with D'Angelo Russell and Towns playing only four games together.

Towns missed a month of action after being diagnosed with COVID-19, and Russell has been out since Feb. 8 and had surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee on February 17.

Saunders is the son of late Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who died of cancer in 2015.

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Finch has a preexisting relationship with Minnesota general manager Gersson Rosas from their time with the Houston Rockets. Finch was the 2009-10 NBA G League Coach of the Year during his time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets' G League affiliate.