Nothing about the way the Timberwolves’ ownership group spoke about Sachin Gupta at media day Monday sounded temporary.
Gupta, who was thrust into the role of basketball boss — albeit while maintaining his previous title of executive vice president of basketball operations — last week following Gersson Rosas’ firing is not operating under an interim title.
The organization — led by the new ownership team of Glen Taylor, Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez — is expected to conduct a search to fill the head position. But it certainly appears as though Gupta will be given a legitimate chance to win the job.
At the ownership introduction press conference to kick off Monday’s festivities, Taylor was asked how the trio of owners would go about tabbing the next president of basketball operations.
“I think we’re just very fortunate in this case to have somebody with knowledge and history with our club and in basketball that we can immediately switch to, in which we’ve done,” Taylor said, in reference to Gupta. “So I’m confident that we’re set for the future, and I think we’ve made our immediate decisions.”
Taylor later admitted he hasn’t gotten to know Gupta as well as he would have liked to over Gupta’s two years with the organization, noting he didn’t foresee something like last week playing out. But Lore said Gupta is the man he will lean on for basketball insight as he continues to gather information about the organization.
“And I’ve already started to build a relationship with Sachin, and he’s quite a talent,” Lore said. “He also exhibits many of the core values that we’re looking to instill in this organization, and as we flush it out, I think that’ll become more clear. But yeah, it’s been great getting to know Sachin.”
Gupta said he feels that support “100 percent.” His relationship with the ownership group is one of the reasons Gupta is thrilled to be in this position. Gupta noted the opportunity to run any NBA franchise is “very unique and incredible.” But this one, he noted, “is a dream.”
“To be in this market — my wife and I have been here for a few years — we love it here,” he said.
He and Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch have a relationship that predates Minnesota. The two worked in Houston together, specifically for the Rio Grande Valley G-League team.
“I remember some of those very first things I was doing when I came on board with the Rockets, a lot of them were projects with Sach, so we formed a relationship there. Always stayed in great touch,” Finch said. “Coming back to work with him last season was certainly a bonus. I feel like he’s extremely ready and one of the most bright strategic minds in the game. I’m excited for his opportunity and our opportunity to work together. We think very, very similarly, and I love his approach.”
This past week, Gupta noted, has been “a little bit crazy for me, but it’s been fun.” He has been reaching out to players, staff members, agents and other folks around the league. There is a lot he’ll have to adapt to and learn as he takes over the top job.
But there is also so much he already knows. This is a roster he helped construct, after all.
“That’s why we feel there’s continuity and stability here. We have the same front office and the same coaching staff, the same support staff,” he said. “I’ve been part of everything that’s happened here, and I feel great about the talent on this roster.”
Gupta said the Timberwolves have “really good people in this building, and that hasn’t changed.”
“It’s about players, and from their perspective we have the same goals for the season and we have the same support around them,” he said. “So I think everyone is ready to move on and excited for the season.”
They’ll do so with Gupta driving the ship.
“I’ve always just wanted to work with great people and be part of great situations, and that’s how I’ve viewed my career thus far,” Gupta said. “Over the past few years I’ve realized that I have the confidence and that I’m ready to run a team.”
Gupta said the Timberwolves are nearing 100% vaccination status. Minnesota has two players who have received the vaccine and are only a few days away from being fully vaccinated. At that point, the entire roster and staff will be fully vaccinated.
That means a lot to Karl-Anthony Towns, who suffered from COVID-19 last season and lost his mother and a number of family members to the virus.
“Everyone has their own beliefs, their own mindset toward it. I have no problem with that. But don’t make an excuse that doesn’t make sense. Don’t do that,” Towns said. “I’m OK with you not wanting to do that, but don’t give me a (illegitimate) excuse why you didn’t want it. That’s the only thing I ask. Shoutout to those (two) players for seeing how important it was to me and as an organization that they went for it and even with them not really being too favorable of it. That just shows you the education and the true respect they have for all of us.”