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Jim Souhan: Gersson Rosas failed for Timberwolves. What should they do next?

Jim Souhan, Star Tribune on

Published in Basketball

MINNEAPOLIS — As a longtime baseball writer, I frequently heard stories about Alex Rodriguez. Some involved steroids. Some involved arrogance. All were unflattering.

As a longtime observer of Minnesota sports, I am about to say something I never before could have imagined myself or anyone saying:

Alex, please come to Minnesota and take charge.

Please clean up the mess that is the Minnesota Timberwolves. And hurry.

If ever an organization needed PEDs — performance enhancing directors — it is the Timberwolves.

On Wednesday, the Wolves fired basketball boss Gersson Rosas. The firing appears to be just. Rosas created a toxic workplace. He may be the basketball version of former Wild general manager Paul Fenton — qualified to judge player talent, unqualified to run an organization.

This is where we could run the full list of Timberwolves' embarrassments, but you've seen it all before. So let's just look at the last six people hired to run the Wolves' basketball operation:

David Kahn. Flip Saunders. Milt Newton. Tom Thibodeau. Scott Layden. Rosas.

Kahn was the worst hire in Minnesota sports history. He was an embarrassment. He knew less about basketball than the average fan and was worse at running an organization than he would have been running a pick-and-roll.

Saunders was a quality hire, especially if we're grading on the Timberwolves curve.

Newton might have proved to be a good hire if he had been able to work in a good organization. He's an assistant GM with the world-champion Milwaukee Bucks, so the Wolves may have wrongly held him responsible for their own historical ineptitude.

Thibodeau is a good coach who should not have been given general manager duties.

Layden was a placeholder, and an unlikable one at that.

Rosas appeared to be an excellent candidate who fit the Wolves' needs. He was an experienced international scout and a modern thinker. While he had not turned around the franchise, as a basketball operator, he had earned a measure of patience.

Maybe owner Glen Taylor didn't do enough due diligence on Rosas as a person. Or maybe Rosas' faults were not evident until he was given power.

 

If what is being reported about Rosas' behavior and the atmosphere in the Wolves' organization are true, Taylor had no choice but to fire him.

But that means that three of the last five basketball bosses Taylor hired from outside the organization were unfit to lead. Thibodeau, Rosas and Kahn made the average Wolves employee hate coming to work. Maybe you can excuse one such mistake, but three mistakes of this magnitude? If a player performed this way, he'd find himself on the bench. In Turkey.

Now the Wolves will begin training camp and explore a trade for Ben Simmons with Sachin Gupta running the basketball operation.

The Wolves are expected to conduct a search for Rosas' replacement.

Who would you want running that search?

Taylor? No.

The new owners — Mark Lore and Rodriguez, who have no basketball experience? No. Not yet, at least.

My recommendation: Give Gupta an honest chance, a full season in which to prove himself.

He's in the best position to pour bleach on Rosas' mess. He's experienced, and he created ESPN's trade machine, which allows fans to calculate what NBA trades can work financially. The average fan, using the trade machine, might have done better work than most Timberwolves GMs.

What Taylor, Lore and Rodriguez should realize is that the best example of how to run a basketball organization is in their own building.

In 2010, Taylor hired Cheryl Reeve to coach the Minnesota Lynx. Today, she is taking the Lynx into the playoffs for the 11th straight season, having won four WNBA titles. She's also the general manager, and was named the league's executive of the year after her first season in that role.

Reeve combines expertise and leadership. The Wolves need to hire a general manager with both qualifications.

Hire the right person to run your business, and you can sleep well at night, instead of fueling decades of organizational nightmares.

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