The sports world is mourning the loss of longtime NBA coach Flip Saunders who died Sunday at age 60. Saunders was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in June and doctors claimed the illness was “treatable and curable” when the announcement was made in August. Saunders took a leave of absence from coaching the Timberwolves in September when there were complications in the recovery process.
Saunders went 654-592 in 17 NBA seasons. He coached the Timberwolves, the Detroit Pistons, and the Washington Wizards. When coaching the Timberwolves he led them to 8 straight playoff appearances before getting fired when contractual battles infiltrated the team. The Wolves haven’t been to the playoffs sine then.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded in a statement addressing the loss.
“Flip’s untimely passing has left a gaping hole in the fabric of our league. Flip was a beloved figure around the NBA, nowhere more so than in Minnesota, demonstrating a genuine and consistent passion for his players, his team and the game. On behalf of the NBA, we offer our most sincere condolences to Flip’s wife, Debbie, their four children and the entire Minnesota Timberwolves organization.”
Saunders returned to the Wolves in 2013 after coaching the Wizards for 3 years and became team president and part-owner. In 2014 he became head coach once again. When he returned to the organization he was asked why he still lived in Minnesota so long after he was fired.
“And I’d say ‘Well, you don’t really understand unless you’re from Minnesota. You really don’t get it. Even when it snows on May 3rd you really don’t get it,'” Saunders said. “And the loyalty and the passion that the people have here is what always drives me back.”