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Zulgad: Same as it ever was: Gersson Rosas’ firing is Timberwolves’ latest embarrassment

Gersson Rosas
Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas before an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It’s only fitting that as Glen Taylor’s tenure as owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves winds down the dysfunction remains. The latest embarrassment came on Wednesday afternoon when the Wolves issued a two-sentence statement from Taylor that president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas had been fired.

This came two years and four months after Taylor introduced Rosas as the Wolves’ new hoops boss by saying: “We wanted someone who can work with the entire staff. Not just the players, but the entire organization. We got a hard worker here. He’s a person who has demonstrated that in the past.”

Yeah, not so much.

Rosas was shown the door with the type of statement that usually means something happened behind the scenes. There was no, “we’d like to thank Gersson and wish him the best,” or, “we appreciate what Gersson has done for the organization.” Reports about Rosas’ management style being abrasive and an inappropriate relationship with a team employee have emerged.

That means less than a week before the Wolves take the floor to begin training camp, the organization announced that Sachin Gupta will assume Rosas’ job while remaining the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations.

How much did the move catch people off guard? Karl-Anthony Towns, a player who has been kept in the loop on many things the Wolves have done, tweeted “wtf …” shortly after the story broke. It’s tempting to say Rosas’ firing was shocking, but in Timberwolves-land nothing is shocking. There’s a high degree of probability that incoming owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez had a say in Rosas’ removal, but it’s Taylor’s name that remains on the owner’s door at Target Center.

As long as that’s the case, dysfunction will be lurking around every corner. Lore and Rodriguez were approved to buy 20 percent of the Wolves and WNBA’s Lynx in July. Their agreement with Taylor is that they will buy another 20 percent stake by the end of 2023 and be the majority owners with a 60 percent stake in the franchise by the end of 2024.

That can’t come soon enough for most.

The Wolves have made one playoff appearance in the past 17 years, and as bad as that sounds, it’s actually been worse. Taylor is the guy who decided that Rosas was the right guy for the job, just as he decided that Tom Thibodeau, David Kahn and Jim Stack had been the right guys to run the basketball department in previous years (to name three). The Wolves will be looking for their ninth head of basketball operations in the past 13 years.

There had been rumblings this summer about Rosas’ lack of popularity among Wolves executives, but the opportunity to make this change was there for several months when things were quiet. What was interesting about the rumblings of friction at Target Center was that Rosas was hired away from the Houston Rockets because he was expected to be the opposite of the gruff and bellowing Thibodeau. These were going to be the new and family-friendly Timberwolves.

Rosas was supposed to get along with others, keep stars happy and put a team on the floor that played a modern brand of basketball. He dealt Andrew Wiggins and a first-round pick to Golden State to land Towns’ good friend, D’Angelo Russell. His roster overhaul left only Towns and Josh Okogie from the team Rosas took over from Thibodeau.

Rosas also drafted Anthony Edwards with the top pick in 2020 and took Jaden McDanields in the same draft. Edwards looked like a star in the making during his rookie season and McDaniels also showed big-time potential. That was good news, considering Rosas’ first first-round pick, Jarrett Culver, proved to be a bust and was traded to Memphis this offseason.

Recent months have been spent speculating on whether the Wolves might land disgruntled 76ers star Ben Simmons, who was known to be on Rosas’ radar after demanding a trade. A trio of Towns, Edwards and Simmons, who has a broken shot but is one of the NBA’s best defenders, would have been cause for significant optimism heading into the season. Even without a Simmons trade, the focus on the Wolves should have been on Towns, Edwards and Russell as training camp opens under Chris Finch.

Finch and Rosas were friends dating to their days with the Rockets organization, and Finch was hired off the Toronto Raptors coaching staff last February to replace Ryan Saunders. Now, Finch’s future will be at the mercy of Rosas’ replacement.

Meanwhile, the Wolves remain under Taylor’s control, which means this woebegone franchise will continue to find a way to self-destruct at the most inopportune times. Same as it ever was.