Raptors: Top Nick Nurse assistant Chris Finch hired by Timberwolves as head coach

TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 14: Head coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 14: Head coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

While Nick Nurse, Chris Finch, and the Toronto Raptors have enjoyed a somewhat successful season after a slow start, Ryan Saunders and the Minnesota Timberwolves have been much less fortunate. After picking Anthony Edwards with the top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Minnesota appears destined for another high draft pick in 2021.

Minnesota currently stands at just 7-24, which is the worst record in the league. With both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell struggling with injuries and Edwards off to an inefficient start in his pro career, the Timberwolves placed a large portion of the blame on Saunders, the son of deceased Timberwolves icon Flip Saunders.

While Saunders hasn’t been dealt the best hand due to injuries, the neophyte coach appeared to be overwhelmed at times with the scale of his job. Gersson Rosas thought it was time for a new voice in the room, firing the 34-year-old Saunders after he won just 43 of his 136 games as a head coach and amassing a winning percentage of just 31 percent of his games.

Minnesota wasted almost no time in finding a replacement, as Finch was named the next head coach of the Timberwolves following Toronto’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers and the Wolves’ loss against the New York Knicks.

Former Raptors coach Chris Finch deserved a shot as a head coach

Finch is not the first Nurse assistant to bold for a job in the States, as Nate Bjorkgren was named the next head coach of the Indiana Pacers. With a 15-14 record so far, his Pacers are likely not regretting the choice.

Finch, like Nurse, came from the developmental ranks, as he was named D-League Coach of the Year after leading the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to a title in 2010.

Finch worked with the big league club as a Houston Rockets assistant coach from 2011 to 2016, becoming associate head coach of the Denver Nuggets shortly thereafter. He spent the last three seasons as associate head coach under Alvin Gentry with the New Orleans Pelicans. 2020-21 was his first, and only, season with the Raptors.

Considering how he came from the coaching trees of two very talented offensive coaches in Gentry and Mike Malone, Finch was supposed to be the main fixture guiding Toronto’s offense after the departure of Bjorkgren. Considering how efficient the Raptors have been over the last few weeks, it’s clear that Finch’s fingerprints are all over this roster.

One of the problems with becoming a great head coach and developing a consistent winner is the fact that losing top assistant coaches will rear its head every season. While Finch moving on to Minnesota and Bjorkgren impressing in Indiana bodes well for Nurse’s ability to pick and develop coaches, it could be a blow in the short and long term for the Raptors.

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