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Timberwolves open head coaching search to outside candidates

Minnesota Timberwolves interim head coach Ryan Saunders looks on during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Target Center on Saturday, Jan. 12. Jesse Johnson / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Gersson Rosas is expanding the Timberwolves’ head coaching search to outside candidates, a source confirmed to the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Tuesday, May 14.

ESPN reported Tuesday that Minnesota will interview Portland assistant David Vanterpool and Miami assistant Juwan Howard. The New York Times reported the team will interview New Orleans assistant Chris Finch, and The Athletic reported the Wolves will interview Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham.

The fact that Rosas is interviewing candidates other than interim head coach Ryan Saunders is noteworthy. Saunders was well-regarded by his players for his performance and approach down the stretch last season as he led an injury-depleted roster after being promoted when Tom Thibodeau was fired.

Players, to a man, supported Saunders staying on as the full-time coach moving forward. Saunders, son of former late Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, also is a favorite of team owner Glen Taylor.

At Rosas’ introductory press conference last week, team CEO Ethan Casson said Saunders did “an incredible job, not just with the time in which he took over the team.”

Saunders is still in consideration for the full-time position, but Rosas has identified an intriguing list of candidates, and at least getting a look at other people falls in line with the thought that Rosas will indeed challenge everything in the Wolves’ organization.

Howard, an assistant coach in Miami since 2013, has been part of numerous head coaching searches of late. He was reportedly a candidate for the Lakers’ coaching position.

Finch worked for years in Houston with Rosas, helping instill the Rockets’ uber-efficient offensive system, and was most recently an assistant in New Orleans.

Ham and Vanterpool each serve as pivotal parts of staffs that have led their respective teams to this year’s conference finals.

Rosas has said he wants the head coach to be part of a collaborative effort.

“A little like a football model,” Rosas said. “The head coach who runs the program, an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, a player development coordinator, a game plans coordinator. That’s going to be our vision.”

In Houston, while Mike D’Antoni is an offensive guru, associate coach Jeff Bzdelik is largely credited with the Rockets’ defensive success.

“We feel like there’s a lot of value in that, but we want to put people at high-end value in terms of talent, to allow them to have success here and so we can have success in the future,” Rosas said.