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Sources: Discord, relationship fueled Rosas’ firing

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3:25 PM ET

  • ESPN News Services

President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas was fired by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, with sources telling ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that the team came to the decision after learning more about his relationships within the organization.

Owner Glen Taylor announced Rosas’ firing Wednesday, replacing him with Sachin Gupta, the Timberwolves’ executive vice president of basketball operations.

Sources close to the situation told Shelburne that incoming owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez had been evaluating Rosas’ performance this summer and had planned to relieve him of his duties at some point. According to sources, that process sped up the more they learned about the deterioration of his relationship with Gupta and evidence was brought to them about a consensual romantic relationship between Rosas and another team employee.

While sources said the organization does not believe the relationship violated any of its internal policies, the Timberwolves planned to conduct an internal investigation after they were made aware of it this week.

Taylor, who is transferring ownership to Lore and Rodriguez over the course of the next two years, made the final decision to relieve Rosas of his responsibilities on Wednesday, less than a week before training camp opens.

Gupta, who sources said had been barred from the facility by Rosas after the two had a falling out several weeks ago, was subsequently elevated to interim president of basketball operations.

The Wolves are planning to conduct a broader search to find a permanent replacement, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The timing of Rosas’ dismissal caught players and other members of the organization by surprise, sources told Shelburne and ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Rosas was still holding meetings and was in the gym Wednesday morning, the sources said.

Rosas became the highest-ranking Latino in an NBA front office when he was hired in May 2019 after a long tenure with the Houston Rockets. Rosas replaced Tom Thibodeau, who held the dual role of head coach and president of basketball operations until his firing by the Timberwolves four months earlier.

Thibodeau’s successor on the bench was Ryan Saunders, who was initially retained by Rosas but fired in February after 137 games on the job. Rosas took the unusual tack of hiring Chris Finch off the staff of the Toronto Raptors and making him the immediate midseason replacement.

The move drew criticism from players around the league stumping for assistant David Vanterpool and a rebuke from the National Basketball Coaches Association for rushing the process at the expense of a thorough search to maximize the opportunity for minority candidates.

This summer, Rosas ran afoul of the Spanish Basketball Federation for barring forward Juancho Hernangomez from playing for his native country at the Olympics because of a shoulder injury he’d been rehabilitating from. The national team said it was led to believe Hernangomez would be allowed to play, only to find out after he’d flown to Tokyo that Rosas said no.

Hernangomez was traded with guard Jarrett Culver last month to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Patrick Beverley, before later being shipped to Boston.

The Timberwolves have made the playoffs once in the past 17 years, under Thibodeau in 2018. Pressure to win was mounting on Rosas, who drastically remade the roster in 28-plus months in Minnesota.

Culver was his first draft pick, the No. 6 selection made by the Phoenix Suns for the Timberwolves and packaged in a trade for the No. 11 choice and forward Dario Saric. The Texas Tech product never found a fit and averaged 20.7 minutes and 7.8 points in two seasons.

The headliner deal that Rosas orchestrated in February 2020 was to fetch guard D’Angelo Russell, a close friend of and on-court complement to Karl-Anthony Towns. Russell and Towns missed long stretches of last season as the Timberwolves finished 23-49. The best development was the play of rookie Anthony Edwards, the electric guard taken with the No. 1 pick last November.

Gupta was hired by Rosas after stints in the front office with the Detroit Pistons, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Rockets. With degrees from MIT and Stanford, Gupta is an analytics ace who began his career at ESPN, where he developed the popular website feature known as the “NBA Trade Machine” that calculates the salary-cap ramifications of any potential deal that a fan wants to plug in.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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