MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KMSP) - Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders passed away on Sunday at the age of 60. Saunders announced back in August he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He originally took a leave of absence from the team in September after complications during his recovery. Assistant coach Sam Mitchell was named interim head coach at that time.
The Timberwolves released the following statement:
“It is with extreme sadness that the Minnesota Timberwolves today learned that Phil “Flip” Saunders, who served as the team’s President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach, in addition to being a minority owner of the team, has passed away at age 60.
The organization will follow up with more information as it becomes available. “
Saunders' basketball relationship with Minnesota goes back to 1974 when he played college basketball at the University of Minnesota. He first joined the Timberwolves organization in 1995 as general manager and was named head coach that December replacing Bill Blair. He also coached the Detroit Pistons from 2005-2008 and the Washington Wizards from 2009-2012.
Statement from Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor:
"It is with tremendous difficulty and deep sadness that the Timberwolves acknowledge the passing of our President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach, Flip Saunders. Flip was a symbol of strength, compassion, and dignity for our organization. He was a shining example of what a true leader should be, defined by his integrity and kindness to all he encountered. Today is not a day to reflect on Flip's accomplishments in basketball or what he brought to us as an organization on the court, but rather to indicate what he meant to us a co-worker, friend, member of the community and the basketball world at large. We as an organization are devastated by his passing, and our hearts and prayers go out to Debbie and the entire Saunders family as they endure this extraordinary loss."
Gov. Mark Dayton released a statement offering his condolences to the team and the Saunders family.
“The Timberwolves have lost a brilliant leader, and Minnesota has lost an outstanding citizen. I extend my deepest condolences to Flip's team, family, and friends.”
I've been thinking for 30 minutes of what to say but words can't describe how special and important Coach Saunders was to me. I want to thank you coach for giving me the opportunity to play in the NBA and achieve my dream. I know the man above has a special place for you in his kingdom and this world, this league, this family will never be the same. I love you coach and I'm going to miss you so so much.
@Tyusjones06 coach Flip made my dream a reality. He believed in me. I'm forever thankful to him for that. We all love you and will miss you— Tyus Jones (@Tyusjones06) October 25, 2015
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding the passing of Flip Saunders pic.twitter.com/qsh5usiYmw— NBA (@NBA) October 25, 2015