Sources: Timberwolves Dismissed Top Exec Because of Affair with Team Staffer

Jake Fischer@JakeLFischerContributor ISeptember 23, 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas poses during an NBA basketball news conference in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves have fired Rosas on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, a move comes less than a week before training camp. Rosas spent just two seasons on the job, becoming, the first Latino to run an NBA team when he was hired by the Timberwolves in May 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves parted ways with president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas on Wednesday, sources confirmed to Bleacher Report. In the interim, the Timberwolves will be spearheaded by executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta, as first reported by B/R

The reason for Rosas' sudden departure is not due to the increasing level of pressure the front office has felt in terms of pushing Minnesota closer to the postseason, which the Timberwolves have only reached once in the last 17 seasons. Multiple team sources told B/R that Rosas was dismissed from his post with Minnesota only after ownership learned in recent days of a consensual extramarital affair between Rosas and a female Timberwolves staffer, who also parted ways with the franchise on Wednesday. The Athletic first reported Rosas' intimate relationship. Minnesota did not respond to B/R's request for official comment. 

Ownership was made aware of Rosas' transgressions with the staffer when team officials were provided with photographic evidence of their connection, sources said. It seems few if any in Minnesota and around the league had general knowledge of Rosas' relationship until Wednesday, when the news quickly spread throughout the organization, and to rival team personnel, like wildfire. 

Rosas and the woman, each of whom is married, were seen kissing in a suite during a Minnesota United FC game last Saturday at Allianz Field​​, sources said. The soccer club was told to reserve luxury seating for several Timberwolves players and personnel, including assistant coach Pablo Prigioni. Two seats were filled by Rosas and the staffer. 

Those pictures have been obtained by Bleacher Report. One photograph is a close-up shot, clearly showing Rosas and the woman sitting beside one another in light blue cushioned seats, behind the suite's protective plexiglass. A second photograph follows, where the two have leaned towards one another for a romantic embrace.

Minnesota's statement announcing Rosas' departure provided no further context behind its decision, and as word of his affair swirled around the league Wednesday, several executives noted how Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor did not thank Rosas for his time atop the team's basketball department, as is customary in the business. 

The revelation of Rosas' relationship comes after a series of tense staffing dynamics within his front office, and a level of discontent from some Timberwolves staffers pertaining to Rosas' leadership style, which has been described as isolationist. Any lead executive is privy to make final basketball decisions as they see fit, but several Minnesota figures told B/R they were dissatisfied by Rosas' penchant for disregarding consultations from his front office. 

"I knew it was when, not if," said one member of Rosas' staff. "The Gersson regime was not it."

There were indeed long-standing rumors of Rosas' hot seat entering this season. Several Minnesota figures contacted by B/R did push back on the notion that Rosas' front office grew to be dysfunctional, but each team source noted the obvious friction within it. 

When the Timberwolves co-hosted a group predraft workout in July for 48 players over four days, it was open to attendance for all 30 teams, and rival team officials observed how Rosas never joined his own Minnesota staff during the event. While they all congregated in a section of the Target Center, sources said, Rosas instead spent the majority of the time on the opposite sideline with then-Jazz executive vice president Dennis Lindsey, a mentor dating back to their shared days in Houston and whose Jazz co-hosted the event. 

"[Rosas and his team] couldn't have been farther apart. It was extremely evident there was tension. It was really almost uncomfortable," said an Eastern Conference executive.

That distance apparently stemmed from the Rockets' well-known attempt to bring Gupta back to Houston in a lateral move that would have given Gupta an increase in salary, but Rosas blocked it. Timberwolves officials have maintained that allowing an integral front office figure, whom Rosas greatly valued, sources said, to join a rival team so close to the draft would have been detrimental to Minnesota's process. However, few executives around the league believe Rosas' choice was made in fair taste.  

When the contract of longtime director of international player personnel Zarko Durisic expired this offseason, Rosas did not make a strong effort to retain the respected talent evaluator, sources said. That bothered several tenured Minnesota staffers, who have described Durisic as a beloved figure in the franchise. Durisic, though, was asked to take a pay cut, as have many team staffers amid the pandemic, and he was unwilling to do so, sources said. 

For now, it appears no further changes are coming within the Timberwolves, and Gupta will have the opportunity to prove he can lead Minnesota's front office beyond this season. He is a respected team strategist who first became known for creating ESPN.com's popular Trade Machine and then followed Sam Hinkie from Houston to Philadelphia. 

Dating back to Summer League, however, it has been mentioned by several league and team sources that current Sixers general manager Elton Brand is an executive new Timberwolves owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez are known to be fond of.