MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minnesota Timberwolves players talked extensively at the end of a disappointing 2018-19 season about changing the culture of the organization heading into a critical offseason.
Owner Glen Taylor and the Timberwolves’ office have made a significant change for the future, in the hopes that positivity, hard work, experience, flexibility and teamwork comes in the form of championships to Minneapolis. That process started Monday as Gersson Rosas was introduced as the team’s new president of basketball operations in a news conference at Target Center.
The search for a new front office leader began almost immediately after the regular season ended. The Wolves finished 36-46 a year removed from making their first Western Conference Playoffs appearance in 14 seasons.
”We have an opportunity to take an organization onto a much brighter future, and I think we’ve selected the leader who can take us there,” Taylor said.
Tom Thibodeau went 19-21 through the first half of the season before being fired from the head coach and POBO positions in January. Ryan Saunders took over as interim coach, and finished 17-25. That’s after trading star Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia in return for Robert Covington and Dario Saric, and a slew of injuries that didn’t allow for the Wolves to play with a regular lineup for most of Saunders’ short reign.
Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson said Monday that Saunders’ status as head coach will be addressed, most likely, by the end of this week. That’s after Saunders has a chance to sit down with Rosas, and the two find out if the share the same beliefs and vision for the Timberwolves.
Several players said after the season their hope is that Saunders is back.
“Certainly it’s been well-publicized Glen’s point of view on Ryan. I think everybody’s been very supportive of the job he’s done, in fact I think he’s done an incredible job. Not just with the time in which he took over the team, but you think about the injuries and being thrown into that situation, he’s been incredible,” Casson said. "I think everyone has kept an open mind during the process. Certainly Gersson is going to visit with him, if not today, within the next 48 hours, and want to make those decisions as quickly as possible.”
Rosas, 40, is native of Bogota, Colombia and a father to a young boy and girl. He comes to Minnesota after spending 17 seasons with the Houston Rockets. He’s worked with players such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul and James Harden to name a few. He’s also worked with coaching names like Rudy Tomjanovic, Mike Dantoni, Jeff Van Gundy and Minnesota’s own Kevin McHale.
He spent seven years as Houston’s executive vice president of basketball operations. Before that, he did everything from being an intern to video coordinator, to scouting director and eventually director of player personnel.
After 17 years, it’s time for a new challenge for Rosas.
“I want to make it clear, my time in Houston was very special. But this is not going to be Houston North. This is going to be about Minnesota and we’re going to build our own identity, we’re going to build our own organism,” Rosas said. “There’s special people here, there’s special players here. We’re going to use some of the same models and approaches, top to bottom. One thing I’ll bring from Houston is we’re going to question the norm in everything that we do.”
Taylor had as many as 30 names when the process started at the end of the season to find a new front office leader. The list was narrowed to four names, including Rosas, who ultimately got the offer.
His experience with the Rockets, passion for basketball and desire to turn the Wolves into an annual contender again was the ultimate difference.
“It certainly felt like we were sitting across from somebody who wanted to be the next President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Casson said. “We just felt like he was the person we needed at the right time at this moment in Timberwolves history.”
Rosas made one thing clear: It’s going to take time, and there will be tangible changes. His emphasis is on putting people in positions to be successful, maximizing strengths and a commitment to player development.
“We have to question the norm, things have to be done differently. There is going to be tangible change, and this market is going to feel it,” Rosas said.
There’s no doubt the tone of the franchise will change. There will be more positivity, more teamwork and communication in all levels of the organization. Whether it translates to more wins is to be determined.
One other thing he wants to take a shot at? Turning Andrew Wiggins into the star his salary would suggest he is. The 2014 first-round draft pick is set to make $27.5 million next season in the first year of four-year, $147 million max contract.
He averaged 18.1 points per game last year and is averaging 19.4 per game for his career, but the path to getting there has been polarizing.
“Andrew is a very talented individual. I know what his potential is, I know what his impact could be. I’m going to invest every resource I can to help Andrew be successful,” Rosas said.
Rosas comes from an organization that has been to the NBA Playoffs seven straight years and 10 of the past 13. That includes two trips to the Western Conference Finals.
It’s that type of consistency that the Wolves organization and fans would welcome.
“Glen [Taylor] is fully committed to building a world class organization with a championship focus, that’s why I’m here,” Rosas said. “He wants to win, the fans in this market want to win and the Minnesota Timberwolves over time are going to earn the right to be a champion in this market.”