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KAT hopes for more NBA head-coaching diversity

The initial reaction from Karl-Anthony Towns when he learned that Chris Finch would replace Ryan Saunders as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was “shock.”

Like the rest of the world, Towns found out Sunday through the media after the team’s loss in New York to the Knicks, its fourth straight defeat.

“I was eating my Joe’s Pizza in New York with my father and the next thing you know, news came out and we were all shocked,” Towns said.

But, once that initial emotion faded, the two-time NBA All-Star became supportive of the decision. However, he couldn’t help but notice the strong reaction from his league peers, such as Portland Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, in regards to another African American being passed over for a head-coaching role in current Wolves assistant David Vanterpool.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t come on here and mention the amazing work that men of color are doing in this world. Not only in every other sport and through social justice and every other part of this world and in the organization or whatever the case may be, but for basketball,” Towns said. “For what my job is, there’s a lot of amazing men of color out there that deserve the opportunity to lead a team and to run an organization and have a chance to make their mark in this league not with a jersey on but with a suit on. And, I say that with meaning.

“But, like I said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing work David Vanterpool has put in, and as a man who looks like me, I can’t wait to see him get a job where he can flourish and be a head coach and run a team,” he continued. “We’re so honored and blessed to have him here on this coaching staff and get to continue learning from him and soak up all the wisdom and experience he has from playing professional and also from being a coach. And, with all that experience and with all that wisdom and just knowledge, it makes us that much better as a team, it makes us that much better as a coaching staff and it makes our new head coach, it just gives him so many weapons.”

Out of 30 NBA teams, there are currently seven Black head coaches.

There’s Lloyd Pierce with the Atlanta Hawks, the Houston Rockets‘ Stephen Silas, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ J.B. Bickerstaff, the Phoenix Suns‘ Monty Williams, the Detroit Pistons‘ Dwane Casey, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue of the LA Clippers.

“As a man of color myself, you would love to see more coaches that resemble what me and you look like on the sidelines, but you’ve got to support the organization in everything you do and understand,” Towns said. “I understand how everything is, but at the end of the day, the organization made the choice that they felt was best for this organization and you’ve got to be a professional in all of this.

“You’ve got to be a professional down the line,” he said. “So, when the decision was made, my mind, just because of how many times I’ve dealt with this, just adjusted and came to an adjustment mode and just wanted to welcome our new coach and try to be here as much as possible for him and lean on each other to get through this adjustment period for both of us.”

Finch will be the Timberwolves’ fourth head coach since Towns joined the league in 2015-16, tied for fifth most of any team, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

Towns made it clear that he wants to finish his career in Minnesota but described this latest coaching move as “just the business.”

“I would love to finish my career here in Minnesota until obviously the business calls or business changes or whatever the case may be,” Towns said. “I don’t plan on it to, or at least I’m not hoping to make the decision. I want to build something great here. I want to build a legacy in Minnesota. I’m just every day trying to help our coaching staff and help this organization build a culture.”



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