Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has passed away at the age of 60 after a battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Saunders was in his second stint as Timberwolves head coach, and tallied over 1,000 victories during his 35 year coaching career in the NBA that stretched among three teams.
Saunders took over as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1996, and is the coach who developed Kevin Garnett into a major star. The Timberwolves fired Saunders in 2005, at which time he took over as head coach of the Detroit Pistons. He led the Pistons to the conference finals all three years that he was their coach, including a season in which he set a Pistons franchise-record with 64 wins in 2005-06.
Despite the success in Detroit, Saunders would be fired after three years in Detroit, and would head to Washington to coach the Washington Wizards.
After three miserable years with Washington, in which he had a combined record of 51-130, Saunders spent time as an analyst for ESPN. He rejoined the Timberwolves in 2013 as team president and part owner. He took over the head coaching position in 2014. After trading Kevin Love for number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins, Saunders led the team to a 16-66 record, which led to them drafting Duke superstar and Minnesota native Tyus Jones in the NBA Draft.
He announced his cancer diagnosis in August, and that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence with what was then called a treatable cancer. He had been at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester receiving treatment. It was announced in September that he would miss the regular season and that Sam Mitchell would take over as interim head coach for the 2015-2016 season.
Before he was a coach, he was a player, and was named the Ohio Player Of The Year during his senior year in high school. He played his college ball at the University Of Minnesota, where he played alongside Kevin McHale, among other future NBA stars.
Saunders is survived by his wife and four children, including his son Ryan, who is an assistant coach with Minnesota.