Doug Wolter: Dysfunctional Wolves rearrange the deck chairs again

For the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s out with the old and in with the new. But if this is new, then how come it feels so old?

Doug Wolter photo
Doug Wolter

For the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

But if this is new, then how come it feels so old?

You see, it’s supposed to work like this: A new regime takes over. Everything’s gonna change and now the Timberpuppies are about to begin a new era of winning, and playoff appearances. The dysfunction is finally going to end, and everyone will love each other and be happy.

The thing that blows me away is a very simple statistic. When Timberwolves President Gersson Rojas decided last weekend that he was going to fire his overwhelmed young head coach, Ryan Saunders, and replace him with Chris Finch -- formerly an assistant with Toronto -- it marked the 14th time over the last 32 seasons (incredibly, the 10th time in 15 years) that the woebegone National Basketball Association team has changed coaches. The average time any head coach has spent as head coach of the Wolves is just slightly more than two years.

That’s how bad it’s been for this franchise. That’s how bad things have gone on the court, and that’s how bad things have gone in the team offices.


What it signifies are many things. The suits in the front office have never learned how to operate an NBA team. Either they don’t know how to draft, don’t know how to make wise trades, or don’t know how to hire. Or, more likely, they haven’t known how to do any of those things for more than three decades.

First of all, Gersson Rojas. What kind of a name is Gersson, anyway? Can you trust anybody with the name of Gersson?

He’s the kind of owner who likes to play “fast and free” basketball. But on a bad team, fast and free hardly inspires confidence. In fact, it seems to be a recipe for losing on a team like the Timberwolves, who are young and don’t yet know how to win. When you’re a team like the Timberwolves, to play fast and free is more like playing unfocused and out of control, which is what the Wolfies have been for as long as anyone can remember.

Maybe it would be better if the Wolves became more like chess pieces. Maybe if they slowed the game down a bit more, they’d have a better chance. Ah, but that doesn’t put fans in the seats, does it.

Instead, Minneapolis, in the words of at least one columnist I’ve read, is synonymous with “Loserville.” They were 7-24 at the time of the Saunders firing, saddled with the league’s worst record.

But it isn’t all bad. Their defense hasn’t been quite as bad as their offense.

Fans are being asked to be optimistic that Finch, who is described as an efficiency expert, can change the Timberwolves culture. He’s an expert on offensive technique, so that can’t hurt. He and Rosas like to talk about “family,” but the Timberwolves are a family that few NBA-quality athletes really want to be a part of.

The team’s most important player, Karl-Anthony Towns, so far says he wants to stay and help make the Timberwolves into a better place to be. But NBA players have never been famous for their loyalty. How long will it be before Towns demands a change of scenery?


They say it’s really hard to win consistently in the NBA. It’s even harder when you consider that it’s filled with prima-donnas, where even on the best teams players like to mail it in from time to time.

As for the Timberwolves, a normal fan’s gotta think, ‘How hard is it to field a decent team when you’ve had 32 years?’ Why must it be that some teams are so consistently awful? There’s only five players on the court at any one time, and when you’re drafting at the head of the class practically every year, how can you not get top-notch talent?

But the Wolves are the Wolves, and perhaps they’ll always be the Wolves. So we’ve got another coach. Again. And it all just feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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