The Timberwolves fired team president Gersson Rosas.
Six days before training camp.
Minnesota went just 19-45 and 23-49 in his two seasons in charge. That’s despite surrendering a lottery pick to get D'Angelo Russell from the Warriors and paying the luxury tax last year. It’s also becoming increasingly clear Rosas’ operation had dysfunctional elements behind the scenes.
But those issues have loomed for a while.
So, why now?
It was clear the heap of issues, from office morale to the lack of success, had decayed the Timberwolves’ front office and sources say those were the driving force behind the move. But why now? In recent days, the organization discovered that Rosas, who is married, had a consensual intimate relationship with a member of the organization, The Athletic has learned from multiple sources. It made several people within the organization uncomfortable, sources said. While this was not the reason for Rosas’ dismissal, it certainly impacted the timing.
“This decision was made for performance reasons,” one high-ranking Timberwolves source said.
One other employee of the team also left abruptly Wednesday.
Though Rosas’ workplace romance brought complications to his workplace, it’s worth noting we don’t know the terms of his marriage.
We are learning more about his job performance, though.
There was apparently conflict between Rosas and Sachin Gupta, who worked as Rosas’ No. 2 in the front office. (The Timberwolves put Gupta in charge of basketball operations after ousting Rosas.)
Krawczynski and Charania:
Some of the issues were exacerbated this summer when Rosas and Gupta butted heads over Rosas’ decision to block Gupta from making a lateral move to the Houston Rockets with increased pay, sources said. Rosas said the timing of the request, coming right before the draft and free agency, made it impossible for the Timberwolves to let someone with as much proprietary knowledge of the team’s plans go to a competitor. The tension between Rosas and Gupta only grew later in August when Rosas banished Gupta from the team’s offices and granted him permission to seek employment elsewhere, according to sources. The issue was resolved in early September after ownership got involved and Gupta decided to stay.
To be fair, the Timberwolves were paying Gupta for exclusivity in his work.
But blocking employees from advancing is a great way to breed contempt. Whatever proprietary information Gupta had, he’s also a human being and should be treated with dignity.
It’s hard to accept the move to the Rockets was lateral when it came with a raise. What better measure of which job is superior than the salary?
If anyone should understand the desire to leave a situation suddenly, it’s Rosas. In 2013, he left the Rockets to become the Mavericks general manager, resigned just three months later then return to Houston. Think Dallas had no concerns about proprietary information? But letting Gupta move on was the right thing to do once the relationship soured.
Employees ranking below Gupta also took issue with Rosas.
Krawczynski and Charania:
Prior to the announcement, The Athletic had spent the last several weeks investigating the working environment under Rosas and interviewed numerous sources on the current staff about the situation after learning of mounting discontent. Some said Rosas worked his staff long hours without giving much input into the decision-making process.
Did Rosas overwork and tune out his staff? Maybe.
But good luck finding a team without employees who believe they’re overworked and undervalued. Lower-level executives, scouts and coaches generally want more control of the roster than they get. Many feel their hard work isn’t properly appreciated.
Ultimately, Rosas was in charge. If others wanted more input, it was on them to earn it.
That said, if Rosas created a toxic culture, that was an impediment to him doing his job well.
Without knowing more about work conditions and the predisposition of these employees, it’s difficult to evaluate whether the employees’ complaints are reasonable.
Rosas’ critics also extend beyond the organization.
Krawczynski and Charania:
Over his two seasons in Minnesota, several player agents privately had issues with Rosas’ negotiating tactics. Rosas had a responsibility to his organization and ownership, but scenarios would arise where representatives expected better treatment. Just this offseason, Rosas reneged during negotiations with restricted free agent Jordan McLaughlin and misled him about his role, according to a source directly involved in the talks.
“Rosas was the cause of mishaps and pulled his promises,” the source said.
McLaughlin was one of the first players Rosas reached out to when free agency opened, but things changed when he acquired veteran guard Patrick Beverley in a trade with Memphis. Beverley is a more established player and the younger McLaughlin quickly went from being prioritized as a ball-handler who figured to get significant minutes to a reduced role behind D’Angelo Russell and Beverley on the depth chart.
Again, it’s hard to find a lead executive universally loved my agents. Team executives and agents naturally have an adversarial relationship.
If Rosas broke his promises, that’s unacceptable. But it’s not totally clear what happened here.
Did Rosas unconditionally promise McLaughlin a larger contract or even certain role before acquiring Beverley? Though he signed with the Timberwolves after they landed Beverley, McLoughlin might have passed on better offers while the market dried up then got stuck staying in Minnesota.
Or did Rosas merely talk to McLaughlin about a larger role before acquiring Beverley? This is the NBA. A player shouldn’t assume his team won’t seek an upgrade.
Other previously known issues have been re-raised. Some people didn’t like how Rosas fired Ryan Saunders as coach – while not acknowledging how little Saunders deserved to keep his job. The hasty hiring of Chris Finch to replace Saunders drew condemnation for Rosas not interviewing minority candidates. But the in-season timing created complications, and Rosas insists he considered minority candidates.
Only Rosas knows how seriously considered anyone other than Finch. Likewise, it’s tough to tell how much Rosas truly mistreated people – or just had some disgruntled employees and agents cast him in a bad light.
But this type of angst is familiar to the Timberwolves.
Rosas is responsible for Rosas’ actions. Yet, resentment permeated well beyond him. That this situation devolved so far reflects poorly on Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor (as does much of the rest of his tenure).
Taylor is in the process of selling the team to Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore, which seemingly sparked Rosas’ sudden ouster. The ownership change will be welcome.
Minnesota needs a cleanup.