MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tony Ronzone came to the Minnesota Timberwolves shortly before the 2010 draft and was charged with revamping the organization’s scouting department and helping to improve the team’s lackluster performance in the draft.
Less than two years later, Ronzone has left his position as assistant general manager. Timberwolves spokesman Mike Cristaldi said Friday that Ronzone and the team “mutually agreed” to part ways just 16 months after he was hired away from the Detroit Pistons.
Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn was not available for comment. The Associated Press left a phone message for Ronzone.
Ronzone helped Kahn in two drafts, but his biggest contribution to the team likely was helping to convince Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio to join the Timberwolves next season. Ronzone was essential to the delicate process, and his relationship with the Rubio family was a big part of finally luring Minnesota’s 2009 first-round draft pick to the NBA.
Ronzone was hired shortly after assistant GM Fred Hoiberg left the team to coach Iowa State, and was charged with not only improving the team’s international scouting resume, but also working closely on the NBA personnel side.
He helped work out a trade with the New York Knicks to bring Anthony Randolph to Minnesota and worked tirelessly with Kahn to reshape the Timberwolves into a younger, more athletic group.
Highly respected as an international scout, Ronzone worked with scout Pete Philo to help upgrade a department that previously was a weakness in Minnesota. In two drafts with Ronzone in the room, the Timberwolves selected Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica and Brazilian big man Paulao Prestes in the second round in 2010.
The Wolves also had a blunder in June when they selected Congo forward Tanguy Ngombo in the second round, only to find out later that he was too old to be eligible for the draft. The Wolves eventually were allowed to retain the rights to the 26-year-old, but his status as a promising prospect is greatly diminished.
The Ngombo selection likely had little to do with the decision to part ways. Philosophical differences between Kahn and Ronzone on the direction of the franchise started to surface around draft time in June and may have contributed to the split.
It remains unclear what the Timberwolves will do, if anything, to replace Ronzone going forward.
Ronzone has been a big part of USA basketball for years, with his deep international roots a big part of the advance scouting that needs to be done for teams competing in the Olympics and world championships. He has served as director of international personnel, work that will continue heading into the London Games in 2012.
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