Fractured front-office relationships and a consensual interoffice relationship created a problematic and untenable workplace within the Minnesota’s Timberwolves basketball operations department, multiple people told USA TODAY Sports.
The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the internal workings of the Timberwolves.
On Wednesday, the team dismissed president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas with no official explanation, just days before the start of training camp next week.
Rosas’ consensual relationship with another team employee, who did not report to him, was not the main reason for his firing, but it did accelerate the process, people told USA TODAY Sports. The other person involved in the relationship is no longer listed on the team’s web site or listed in emails as part of the communications staff. That person joined the Timberwolves two years ago.
The larger issue was with the direction of basketball operations under Rosas, who, people within the league indicated, alienated staffers and frustrated agents and executives with other teams with his communication.
Following Rosas dismissal, the team put Sachin Gupta, the Timberwolves’ executive vice president of basketball operations, in charge. The work relationship between Rosas and Gupta crumbled in the offseason when Rosas banned Gupta from taking a similar job with the Houston Rockets and then banned him from the team facility. It required ownership to resolve the issue so that Gupta could return to the workplace.
In February, Rosas and the team were criticized for replacing Coach Ryan Saunders with Chris Finch, who is white, midseason while not interviewing minority candidates. Rosas was the only Latino to lead a team’s basketball operations and hired Gupta, an American-Indian, in a high-ranking capacity. Rosas was also on one of the league’s diversity and inclusion committees.
The hiring of Finch drew a rebuke from Rick Carlisle, the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, and David Fogel, the NBCA’s executive director.
Still, the Rosas’ firing took many by surprise. Just three days ago, Rosas on Instagram posted photos of himself, Finch and Timberwolves players, and star center Karl-Anthony Towns tweeted, “wtf,” when he learned of Rosas departure.
The team is in flux on and off the court. Controlling owner Glen Taylor has reached a deal to sell the Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx to former baseball star Alex Rodriguez and businessman Marc Lore in 20% increments at $1.5 billion valuation. The first 20% of the sale was approved by the NBA in July.
Since losing in the 2004 Western Conference finals, the Timberwolves have had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance. They have had 11 coaches in the past 17 seasons.
The Timberwolves have also failed to capitalize on Towns’ talent. After making the playoffs in 2018, they have lost 46, 45 and 49 games.
“As an organization, we remain committed to building a winning team that our fans and city can be proud of,” Taylor said in a statement Wednesday.