Report: T-Wolves Didn't See David Vanterpool as Fit for HC; Towns Not Consulted

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2021

Minnesota Timberwolves assistant head coach David Vanterpool in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 109-100. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly did not see current assistant coach David Vanterpool as a "good fit" to replace Ryan Saunders as head coach.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reported Wolves general manager Gersson Rosas made the decision to not want to promote Vanterpool before firing Saunders and hiring Raptors assistant Chris Finch for the position.

Minnesota has taken some public criticism for passing over Vanterpool, a well-respected assistant who is Black, in favor of Finch, who is white. While Finch is a qualified coach with a strong resume, the midseason hiring of an assistant from another team is far outside the norm of teams typically handle in-season firings.

In most cases, an assistant currently on the staff is hired on an interim basis before a full-scale search begins in the offseason. Even in the cases when one full-time coach is replaced with another midseason, it is almost never a coach currently on the bench for another team.

Vanterpool, 47, is known to have built a strong relationship with franchise stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell. Spears' reporting says Towns was not consulted in the decision to fire Saunders or hire Finch, which tracks with his public comments 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."

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Blazers star Damian Lillard, who worked closely with Vanterpool from 2012-19 in Portland, was among the chorus to criticize the Wolves' decision-making.

"How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool and he's right there on the bench... and has been in front office SUCCESSFULLY and on the front of a bench of a winning team SUCCESSFULLY (7 years) ... and also has played a major role in the development of a dominant backcourt smdh!" Lillard tweeted.

Several Black coaches around the NBA expressed dismay at Vanterpool being passed over, even on an interim basis. Some coaches have parlayed interim jobs into full-time gigs, either at past stops or by their current employer, and Vanterpool missed out on what appeared to be a seemingly obvious opportunity to show what he can do.

Only seven of the NBA's 30 head coaches are Black men. While Towns said he plans on supporting the organization's decision to hire Finch, he acknowledged the NBA needs to do a better job making its coaching ranks look more representative of the league as a whole. 

"I want to take the time to recognize the amazing work these assistant coaches have done, especially David Vanterpool," Towns said. "Men of color deserve to have a chance to get their opportunity to be a head coach in this league, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing work he's done and what he's meant to this organization since he stepped here."

Rosas, a native of Colombia, and Finch have a preexisting relationship dating back to their days with the Houston Rockets