MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Timberwolves players, coaches and fans paid tribute to the late Coach Flip Saunders at the Target Center.
Saunders was honored as part of “Flip Saunders Night” at Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. In October of 2015, Flip passed away after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Saunders was head coach of the Timberwolves from 1995 to 2005. He returned as head coach in 2014.
In a pregame ceremony, the Timberwolves unveiled a permanent banner in the Target Center rafters, honoring Flip’s life and legacy. Flip’s son, Ryan, who is an assistant coach for the Wolves, says his dad always dreamed of this honor.
“Unfortunately, he’s not here to see it, but I know he’ll be watching and just the fact that we’re able to see all this,” said Ryan. “We’ve always dreamed of a name in the rafters someday, somewhere. I mean that’s something that not many people ever get to and to be able to see something tangible up in the Target Center rafters is pretty incredible and shows the level of respect he had and the things that he did.”
Fans attending the game also received a special commemorative coin, honoring Coach Saunders. During his tenure with the Wolves, Saunders would create a team coin each season and give them out to players and front office staff.
But Ryan says it's a different coin the Saunders family holds dear to their hearts. After Saunders’ family dog died about seven years ago, Ryan’s mother was heartbroken until she found a penny on the ground.
“So over the next week after she told my dad that she found a number of pennies around the house and she always felt like, ‘Oh my gosh this is Cinnamon, this is a sign,’” said Ryan. “Until one day, she saw [Flip] on his hands and knees putting little pennies around the room, so she would find them so it would help her feel better.”
Ryan says whenever his family members find pennies on the ground, they take moment and think of Flip.
“We’ve felt that, so those are the little things that you feel like ok, he’s still around,” said Ryan.