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Wolves hit reset button again, fire President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas

Minnesota finished near the bottom of the West during Gersson Rosas' tenure, going 19-45 in 2019-20 and 23-49 last season.

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

Gersson Rosas became the highest-ranking Latino to run an NBA team, when he was hired by the Timberwolves in May 2019.

Man, the Timberwolves bosses really must have wanted that power forward position upgraded.

The offseason came and went — we’re on the brink of training camps opening next week — and the Wolves didn’t do much to plug their glaring need at the “four.” So now they’ve turned their attentions to filling a newly created need at president of basketball operations, because Gersson Rosas — the man charged with sprucing up that roster – was fired Wednesday.

Rosas, 43, held the job since 2019. He arrived from Houston after 17 years in the Rockets’ front office, where he primarily worked under Daryl Morey before Morey’s move to Philadelphia. Over the past two seasons, Minnesota went 42-94, a winning percentage (.309) worse even than the Wolves’ overall .394 rate, still the worst of the NBA’s 30 active franchises.

Only 10 organizations in league history have lost more frequently and those clubs — such as the Pittsburgh Ironmen, the Waterloo Hawks and the Providence Steam Rollers back in the belted shorts days — all are defunct.

The power forward mention was sarcastic, though with the Wolves, you never can tell the motivation for hitting the reset button again — and again, and again. Reports in the Twin Cities Wednesday night said the married Rosas’ inappropriate relationship with another Wolves executive prompted the firing, along with a tense office culture.

On merit alone, though, Rosas’ failure and exit is in sync with the team’s dreary, er, traditions.

Rosas was brought in after Tom Thibodeau was flipped the keys to the front office and the coaching sidelines in 2016, who was the alleged answer in Minnesota after the ill-advised decision to hire former sportswriter David Kahn as chief basketball executive.

Sachin Gupta, a Rosas hire as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and therefore someone who has fingerprints all over their signings, trades and drafts, has been moved into his boss’ job on an interim basis. The proverbial wide net is being cast to find a permanent replacement, without much institutional confidence that this time, they’ll get it right.

Over the past 15 seasons, the Wolves have had 10 different men serve as head coach – and have missed the playoffs in 14 of those 15 years, the streak interrupted only by a first-round ouster against Houston in 2018.

So was it the failure to shore up the four? Probably not just that. The Wolves had no draft picks in July, with both their first- and second-round selections shipped to Golden State in Rosas’ deal that was as much about unloading Andrew Wiggins as it was about adding guard D’Angelo Russell (thus, the picks as sweeteners).

Or maybe there was too much or too little going on in Minnesota’s purported interest in Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons.

Hiring Chris Finch in midseason to replace coach Ryan Saunders put the team at cross-purposes, trying to establish a new staff while hoping to preserve top-three protection on that first-round pick. So in tinkering with a 13-40 record by going 10-9 over the final five weeks, their pick landing at No. 7 in the lottery, Rosas’ team couldn’t even lose “right.”

Rosas did tab Georgia wing Anthony Edwards No. 1 overall in 2020 and wound up one of the top two newcomers in the NBA last season. Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball won the Rookie of the Year Award but Edwards has an explosive, highlight-reel game with the potential for future stardom.

In 2019, though, Rosas maneuvered with Phoenix to land Jarrett Culver on Draft Night, giving up two assets – draftee Cam Johnson and veteran Dario Saric — who helped the Suns reach the 2021 Finals. Culver, meanwhile, had two unimpressive seasons with the Wolves, then was sent to Memphis last month in a trade for high-mileage guard Patrick Beverley.

Besides the Russell trade, crafted to team the scoring point guard with his friend and Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, Rosas acquired six more players by the February 2020 trade deadline. Most of them were role players and only two — Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt — remain.

Ironically, in an interview last week with Yahoo! Sports, Towns was asked about the comings and goings of so many teammates and coaches since he arrived as the No. 1 pick in 2015.

“It’d be great to have some stability and some understanding of where we’re growing with the people we’re trying to grow with,” said the two-time All-Star, 2016 Rookie of the Year and an All-NBA center in 2018. In Towns’ six seasons, he has played for four coaches on teams that have gone 185-279 (.399).

Casting out the president of basketball operations so close to training camp, it could be argued, is the tough but correct decision if there was some specific issues with Rosas or if ownership had lost confidence in him. No reason to wait out an entire 2021-22 season.

There’s a sense, too, that while incoming investors Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore remain minority partners to Glen Taylor, they might have been involved in Rosas’ dismissal. Veteran NBA writer Peter Vecsey suggested on social media Wednesday afternoon that Rodriguez might be interested in hiring Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, who had a tumultuous tenure as president and coach of the New York Knicks while Rodriguez played for the Yankees.

If Rodriguez and Lore are behind this move, then in its timing and how it so neatly fits the Timberwolves’ pattern of impetuous change of directions, the mood in Minnesota might reasonably be, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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