The Timberwolves finally got it right.
That seemed to be the feeling of many Wednesday upon seeing the report that the Wolves had hired Houston Rockets vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas as their president of basketball operations. Rosas comes from a progressive organization that has had plenty of success and is currently facing the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
There’s only one problem with the feeling that owner Glen Taylor has made the right hire. Or, more accurately, one name: Tom Thibodeau. Actually there are a few more names, including David Kahn, but you get the point.
Thibodeau was hired as the Wolves’ president of basketball operations and head coach in April 2016, bringing Scott Layden with him as general manager, and great expectations that things would finally change at Target Center. I was as guilty as anyone of thinking that Thibodeau had learned plenty during his year away from the NBA, and would be a less abrasive and more effective version of the coach who had led the Chicago Bulls to five consecutive playoff berths from 2010 to 2015 before being shown the door.
The enthusiasm toward Thibodeau only grew on draft night 2017 when he acquired Bulls All-Star and personal favorite Jimmy Butler to put with young star Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves went from a disappointing 31-51 in Thibodeau’s first season to 47-35 and a playoff berth in Thibodeau’s second year and Butler’s first with the franchise. That ended a run of 13 consecutive seasons without a playoff berth for the franchise, and although it had become clear that the bellowing Thibodeau’s people skills were horrendous it seemed like a step in the right direction.
That was until Butler demanded out of Minnesota shortly after the season, Thibodeau balked and all you-know-what broke loose. Butler was finally traded in early November and Thibodeau was fired in early January.
What started out with such high hopes had ended up as the latest blunder by Taylor. The Wolves had struck out again.
While Thibodeau’s hiring was done with the assistance of a search firm, the Rosas move was done by Wolves CEO Ethan Casson and Taylor.
“The Rockets do a pretty good job of hiding responsibilities, but Gersson is a guy who was recognized as a great lieutenant for (Rockets general manager) Daryl Morey,” Rockets radio voice Matt Thomas said. “Three and D, heavy, heavy, heavy on analytics. If you haven’t had those things before with the Wolves you’re about to get it now.”
What Thomas is saying is that modern-day basketball is about to come to Target Center, just as modern-day baseball finally has made an appearance at Target Field.
Rosas has worked 18 seasons with the Rockets, a tenure that was interrupted for a brief time when he became general manager of the Dallas Mavericks in 2013. Do either of those things qualify as a red flag — either too long of stay at one place or not long enough at the other? Thomas acknowledged that Rosas is extremely tight-lipped in what he will reveal about his team but called him, “very personable and friendly,” or to put it another way, “the anti-David Kahn.”
Right now, it appears Rosas will inherit Ryan Saunders as his coach and likely, at least for a time, Layden as his general manager. He also will bring plenty of information that the Rockets will hate to see walk out the door.
Will this mean that Rosas is the guy who is going to turn the Wolves around and make springtime basketball a regular occurrence at Target Center? That will be the hope of the Wolves and their fans but until there are actual long-term changes making any assumptions about how this is going to work out probably isn’t a wise move.