Karl-Anthony Towns left ‘shocked’ by Ryan Saunders’ firing
The Minnesota Timberwolves cut ties with Ryan Saunders on Sunday night after two-plus disappointing seasons as the team’s head coach. Despite the T-Wolves posting an NBA-worst 7-24 record on the season, Karl-Anthony Towns admits to being left stunned by the sudden turn of events.
The nature of the entire situation unsurprisingly left many shocked, and Towns presumably spoke for many of his teammates and others within the organization with his comments on Saunders’ firing.
“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 Tuesday, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “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.”
Towns forged a strong bond with Ryan Saunders, the son of late Timberwolves icon Flip Saunders, over the years, so his reaction is understandable on numerous fronts.
The younger Saunders spent time on his dad’s coaching staff and worked with Towns before Flip passed away at the age of 60 in October 2015 following a battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. He of course remained with the organization following his father’s death, working on Tom Thibodeau’s staff before being elevated to interim head coach after Thibs’ midseason dismissal in January 2019.
Following Saunders’ dismissal, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas opted to go with former Raptors assistant Chris Finch as Saunders’ replacement. Rosas cited his familiarity with Finch from their time together with the Houston Rockets organization for how quickly things came together.
There has been no shortage of controversy about the hire across the NBA world — including from LeBron James and Damian Lillard — but Rosas defended the move during his Monday presser.
Towns weighed in on the fallout from the quick turnaround to Finch’s hiring, including how Timberwolves assistant coach David Vanterpool, who is Black, was passed over.
KAT says he understands the reaction to the process. Says as a man of color, more coaches who look like him should get a shot. "But at the end of the day, they made a choice that they felt was best for the organization and you've got to be a professional."— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) February 23, 2021
KAT on Vanterpool: "Men of color deserve a chance to be coaches in this league." Says DV is soon to be a head coach in this league.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) February 23, 2021
Interestingly enough, Towns previously weighed in on building a legacy in Minnesota beyond his remarks Tuesday before Saunders’ firing was announced.
“If you want to build a legacy we got to win,” Towns said last week, per the Star Tribune. “And I want to build my legacy here so I want to win with the Wolves, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to keep step-by-step, brick-by-brick, building something and a culture here that’s going to stand here for a long time.”
Given the Timberwolves’ long history of ineptitude up to and including throughout Towns’ tenure, the NBA team could be running out of time and soon may begin to test the superstar’s patience. Finch said in his opening remarks Monday that Towns will be the centerpiece of the team’s offense going forward.
For what it’s worth, Towns pledged to work with Finch, saying players “are going to support Coach Finch and everything he stands for,” adding he’s “excited to play” for the team’s new head coach.