With just one appearance in the playoffs over the last 15 years, the Minnesota Timberwolves are seeking progress. They turned to one of the NBA’s most forward-thinking organizations to find their next front office leader.
The Timberwolves have decided to hire current Houston Rockets executive Gersson Rosas as president of basketball operations, a person with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team had yet to make the announcement.
The 40-year-old Rosas has been a finalist for the top job with several other recent openings around the league, including the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards this spring. He had a three-month stint as general manager of the Dallas Mavericks in 2013, working under president Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban, before resigning because he didn’t feel like it was a good fit for him.
Rosas soon returned to the Rockets, who have been one of the NBA’s pioneers in data-driven decisions for both strategy on the court and building the roster under general manager Daryl Morey. The Rockets have reached the playoffs for the seventh straight year, having lost last year to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series in the Western Conference finals.
Rosas, a native of Colombia, rose from intern to vice president of basketball operations with the Rockets. With the Timberwolves, he will be the highest-ranking Latino in a front office. Rosas said in a recent interview with ESPN that he didn’t speak English when his family moved from Colombia to Houston as a youth, and that his desire to become an NBA general manager dates back to high school.
Rosas replaces Tom Thibodeau, who was fired at midseason from his dual role as president and coach, halfway into a five-year contract. Seeking stronger collaboration between the basketball and business sides of the organization and a younger, more innovative leader, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor opened up the search as soon as the regular season ended . Former Timberwolves point guard and current ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon, and Denver Nuggets assistant general manager Calvin Booth, who worked in scouting and personnel for the Timberwolves, were also interviewed.
The first priority for Rosas will be the fate of interim coach Ryan Saunders, who took over for Thibodeau four months ago. He’s been expected to be retained along with general manager Scott Layden, who was hired by Thibodeau.
After making the playoffs last year for the first time since 2004, the Timberwolves regressed on their way to a 36-46 finish. They endured the early-season drama that led to the trade of All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers, but the roster was so ravaged by injuries down the stretch that Saunders never had much of a chance to make many impactful changes.