The Minnesota Timberwolves announced today that head coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has passed away at the age of 60.
Over the summer, the Timberwolves announced Saunders would be out indefinitely after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, in September, Saunders remained in the hospital, and the Timberwolves announced that he would miss the season as he recovered. Sam Mitchell was named interim head coach.
Saunders was head coach of the Timberwolves from 1995-2005. In 2013, after head coaching stints with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, he returned to the Timberwolves as president of basketball operations and part owner. Saunders became the head coach of the team for the second time in 2014 when Rick Adelman, then the head coach, retired at the end of the season.
Flip played college basketball at the University of Minnesota with Kevin McHale and Mychal Thompson. He started in 101 of the possible 103 games during his four-year career and helped them to a school-best 24–3 record in his senior year.
He started out coaching at the college level with Golden Valley Lutheran College, and was undefeated (56-0) at home in four seasons coaching there. From there it was on to the CBA, first with Rapid City, then La Crosse and finally Sioux Falls. During that time, he won two CBA championships and two coach of the Year honors.
In May of 1995, he joined the Minnesota Timberwolves as general manager, under former college teammate, Kevin McHale. That next season, 1995-96, he became head coach, where he would serve for the next 10 seasons. After that came three years in Detroit, the first of which saw them win 64 games. He moved on to Washington next before going back the Timberwolves as president of basketball operations, before taking over head coaching duties last season when Rick Adelman resigned.
His career record as a head coach in the NBA was 654-592.
He is survived by wife, Debbie, and four children: Ryan, Mindy and twins, Rachel and Kimberly.
He will be dearly missed by anyone lucky enough to be around him during his extensive NBA coaching career.