Flip Saunders died on Sunday, Oct. 25 when he lost his battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with cancer back in August of this year. Saunders was 60 years old. Saunders was a prominent figure in the NBA community who will be remembered by many players and fans.
Saunders was born in Ohio in 1955. As a high school basketball player, he showed tremendous skill and was eventually recruited for college basketball. He attended the University of Minnesota where he also played. He would eventually return to the university as an assistant coach for a couple of years.
Flip Saunders was a head coach in the NBA for 17 seasons between three teams. He was the head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves (twice), Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, according to ESPN. He is best known for his coaching days with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Flip Saunders began his coaching career with the Timberwolves in 1995. He quickly helped turn the team into a playoff contender. He led the Timberwolves to the playoffs eight times in his first nine seasons. The farthest he led the Timberwolves in the playoffs was to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, according to ESPN.
Saunders would go on to two different teams after Minnesota. His second coaching job was with the Detroit Pistons, which he had success with them. He led them to the playoffs like he did with the Timberwolves. He led the Pistons to three straight Eastern Conference Finals, but he never got to the NBA Finals, according to ESPN.
Saunders third coaching job came with the Washington Wizards. His coaching stint with the Wizards was short as he wasn’t able to turn them around like he did with his first two teams. He finished with a losing record as a coach with the Wizards.
Saunders became the head coach of the Timberwolves for his second time in his career last year. Saunders took over a very young team and made them compete every night. He was creating a buzz again for basketball in the state of Minnesota.
Saunders was a great coach in the NBA but he was even a better mentor for young basketball players. He had the ability to get young players to listen to him and transform him into a superstar. A couple of young players who turned into superstar’s during Saunders coaching career are Keven Garnett (Timberwolves), John Wall (Wizards) and future superstar Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves).
In the 17 seasons that Saunders was a coach in the NBA, he made the playoffs in 11 of them. He has a winning percentage as a head coach. He helped make the Timberwolves relevant in basketball in the late ’90s and early 2000’s.
Saunders would have been coaching his 18th season. The Timberwolves will wear a patch on their jerseys in honor of Flip Saunders for the 2015/2016 season.