The National Basketball Coaches Association called out the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday for the quick hire of new head coach Chris Finch, expressing a "level of disappointment" with the team's process.
In a statement released Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the organization's president, and executive director David Fogel, the NBCA took aim at the Timberwolves ostensibly for not conducting a thorough search and considering qualified minority candidates.
The Timberwolves fired Ryan Saunders late Sunday night and announced Finch's hiring Monday, eschewing hiring an interim coach and conducting a search.
"It's always bittersweet when one coach is fired and another is hired," the NBCA statement began. "We would be remiss not to acknowledge a deeper concern and level of disappointment with the Minnesota head coach hiring process.
"The NBCA understands and respects each organization's right to hire and fire whomever and whenever it chooses. But it is also our responsibility to point out when an organization fails to conduct a thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.
"During this past off-season, we saw many NBA head coaching vacancies where teams led searches that were both diverse and transparent. This must be the standard. We must establish a level playing field and equal access to opportunity for all coaching candidates."
Finch, a first-time NBA head coach, coached his first game on Tuesday night -- a 139-112 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Finch, 51, began his NBA coaching career with the Houston Rockets, where he spent five seasons as an assistant. Finch coached their G League team for two seasons, during which he worked alongside Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.
The move has been criticized by pundits, minority assistant coaches and players alike. Scrutiny has centered on the team's passing over of David Vanterpool, a Black assistant coach already on their bench.
"What are we supposed to do? Coach in college? What more are we supposed to do? What is the blueprint?" one longtime Black assistant coach told The Undefeated on Tuesday. "Somebody help us, because clearly what we know right now is not helping us."
Rosas issued a statement to The Undefeated.
"As a minority leader, I take pride in assembling a diverse front office, coaching and basketball operations staff. It's one of the first priorities when I took on the role of president of basketball operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves," Rosas said. "Many people don't look beyond what they see on the surface, but in reality we have invested in and supported David Vanterpool, our minority staff and all basketball operations personnel in a multitude of ways so they can advance when ready. I know there are more hurdles for minorities. I had to leap over those personally, and it's why I put internal programs in place to help all of our staff be prepared for the next step. I know David's day will come, and we will continue to do what we can to develop him."
Portland's Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on Monday criticized the team for not hiring Vanterpool.
"How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool and he's right there on the bench... and has been in front office SUCCESSFULLY and on the front of a bench of a winning team SUCCESSFULLY (7 years) ... and also has played a major role in the development of a dominant backcourt smdh!," Lillard wrote.
Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns toed the line about Vanterpool and Finch during a press conference on Tuesday.
"I want to take the time to recognize the amazing work these assistant coaches have done, especially David Vanterpool," Towns said. "Men of color deserve to have a chance to get their opportunity to be a head coach in this league and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing work he's done and what he's meant to this organization since he stepped here.
"So very excited to be able to be coached by Coach Finch and to play for him, but I also want to recognize the men of color that we have on this coaching staff, especially one that is soon to be a head coach in this league and I'm going to be very excited for that moment for him."
The Timberwolves are a league-worst 7-25.