Damian Lillard Blasts the Minnesota Timberwolves for Overlooking Something Right In Front of Them

The Minnesota Timberwolves have the NBA’s worst record at 7-24. Feeling like they needed a change, the team recently fired head coach Ryan Saunders. It didn’t take long for Minnesota to find his replacement, hiring Chris Finch for the role.

It isn’t known what went into Finch’s hiring, but the Timberwolves had a promising candidate right in front of their faces. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard saw the glaring oversight and proceeded to rip the Timberwolves for not recognizing their own talent.

Damian Lillard slams the Minnesota Timberwolves for overlooking David Vanterpool

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It took the Minnesota Timberwolves a couple of days to finalize the hiring of Chris Finch after firing Ryan Saunders. Damian Lillard, however, believes the team missed out on a prime candidate for the position: David Vanterpool. The veteran coach has been an assistant coach for Minnesota since 2019 and served as an assistant in Portland. He criticized the T-wolves for not hiring Vanterpool, who is right on their own bench.

“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,” Lillard tweeted out.

Vanterpool is a Black coach, and worked with Lillard in Portland from 2013-19. He’s the one credited with Lillard and C.J. McCollum’s development, transforming them into a dynamic backcourt duo. During his time with the Timberwolves, the former Trail Blazers assistant is the associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

Lillard was not the only one to bring attention to the Minnesota Timberwolves not looking at Vanterpool. NBA Analyst Rachel Nichols and journalist Marc Spears were among those who voiced their displeasure with the situation, citing in a glaring statistic about the league’s coaching ranks. Of the 32 teams in the NBA, only seven of them are led by black head coaches. This is a problem for a league that is predominantly African American.

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching hire highlights the NBA’ lack of diversity

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard reacts to a call
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard believed Minnesota Timberwolves coach David Vanterpool should’ve been the team’s head coach | Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

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David Vanterpool’s situation is another example of a Black head coach not getting hired as a head coach. While the NBA isn’t the only league with this problem, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ choice has put the issue in the spotlight.

Looking at Vanterpool’s resume, he has a lot of experience in the NBA world. He was on the Timberwolves staff, so there is a sense of familiarity there. However, the team’s general manager, Gersson Rosas, didn’t see him as the right fit for the role. Instead, Rosas is relying on his experience working with Finch in the past for his hiring decision.

Finch spent time as an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets from 2011-16. Rosas was the general manager for Houston at the time, where the two formed a working relationship. That relationship seems to have played a role during the hiring process. 

The lack of Black head coaches in the NBA won’t be fixed until more black executives are in the front office. When African Americans become general managers, presidents, and owners, more Black coaching candidates will be considered more heavily, at least that’s what Kendrick Perkins thinks.

Who is Chris Finch, new coach for the Timberwolves?

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Chris Finch isn’t a common name in the NBA, but he still has plenty of basketball experience. Although he has no NBA head coaching experience, Finch was a head coach for the Rio Grande Valley in the NBA G-League. His success there led to his opportunity with the Houston Rockets from 2011-16.

Finch hopped around after his stint in Houston, joining the Denver Nuggets from 2016-17. He was with the New Orleans Pelicans from 2017-2020 before spending this season with the Toronto Raptors. According to Rosas, the quick coaching search is due to Finch being a finalist for the job two years ago.

“A lot of what this process and this search was about was going back to our original search when we hired Ryan. Chris was a finalist there. …When we got that opportunity, we were very aggressive with it because he’s a candidate that we have experience with through our last process and the guy we identified as a target for us,” said Rosas per the Star Tribune.

The Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped up their coaching search quickly with the hire of Chris Finch. David Vanterpool was a qualified candidate, but the team decided to go in a different direction. Damian Lillard was among the many outraged by the move, believing another Black head coach was snubbed from a head coaching opportunity.