The Minnesota Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA, and because of that, they became the first team to make a coaching change this season. On Sunday night they fired head coach Ryan Saunders after less than two years on the job, and have reportedly already decided on Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch as his replacement.
Finch previously worked with Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas in Houston, but the decision still came as a surprise for a number of reasons. For one, it’s a surprise any time an organization has a new coach lined up this quickly, and two, coaches usually don’t switch teams mid-season.
But there was also another question raised by Portland Trail Blazers stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum: why didn’t the Timberwolves give assistant coach David Vanterpool a chance?
“How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool and he’s right there on the bench…” Lillard wrote on Twitter. “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!”
McCollum quote tweeted Lillard with “Make it make sense. Respectfully.”
It’s important to note here that Lillard and McCollum are extremely close with Vanterpool, who before joining the Timberwolves bench was an assistant in Portland from 2012-2019. When Vanterpool left to go to Minnesota, Lillard made an emotional post on Instagram, in which he wrote, “The day I never wanted to see in my career has arrived. @david_vanterpool … no words.”
But just because Lillard and McCollum are sticking up for their friend doesn’t make their concerns invalid. Vanterpool has interviewed for a number of head coaching jobs in the past, and it’s definitely fair to wonder why the Timberwolves ignored a qualified candidate who was already familiar with the organization. Even if the team felt it was best to shake things up and bring in someone from the outside, it seems like at the very least Vanterpool deserved a chance to make his case for the job.