Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders passed away yesterday from complications of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Saunders was diagnosed with the disease in June. While his initial prognosis was good, Sam Mitchell was named interim head coach and then late last week it was announced that Saunders would miss this season.
After coaching in the now defunct Continental Basketball Association in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, Saunders was hired to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995 and would be with them for nearly a decade guiding the team to eight straight playoff appearances. Saunders is probably best known for his tutelage of future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. He would also coach for the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards before returning to the Timberwolves last season. Although he would never appear in an NBA Final, Saunders was one of the most popular coaches and ambassadors in the NBA.
Saunders’ diagnosis came only a couple of months before Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell was diagnosed with the same disease. Farrell’s cancer is now in remission and he will return to the dugout for the 2016 season. A few days before Saunders’ death, Farrell mentioned that Saunders had got in touch with him after his diagnosis was revealed.
Here is a nice tribute to Saunders by NBA writer Zach Harper.