NBA: Wolves' Saunders dies at 60

Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in June, died Sunday at the age of 60. Saunders went 654-592 in 17 NBA seasons with the Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. "It is with extreme...

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders pats Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (21) on the back in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Target Center in an undated file photo. Saunders died of cancer Sunday at age 60. Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in June, died Sunday at the age of 60.

Saunders went 654-592 in 17 NBA seasons with the Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards.

"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, passed away today at age 60," the team said in a statement.

Saunders sat out the preseason after being diagnosed with cancer, but he was expected back at some point this season. However, he had been hospitalized since September after experiencing complications following the completion of chemotherapy.

The Timberwolves had announced Friday that Saunders would miss the entire 2015-16 season. Sam Mitchell has been coaching the team throughout the preseason in Saunders' absence and general manager Milt Newton is handling the front-office responsibilities.


Saunders first became an NBA coach in 1996 with the Timberwolves and eventually led the team to eight straight playoff appearances.

After being fired by Minnesota in 2005, Saunders was hired by the Pistons the following season and took Detroit to the conference finals for all three seasons he was coach.

After a three-year stint with the Wizards, Saunders returned to the Timberwolves in 2013 -- after eight years away -- as team president and part owner. In 2014, he took over again as coach.

Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who played for Saunders with the Timberwolves from 2003-05, said he was in "a little bit of shock."

"Flip played a huge part in my life. Everything from bringing me in and giving me a chance to taking a lot of the philosophy that he had," Hoiberg said Sunday. "He was a great mentor, a great leader ... a special, special person.

"And that's the thing, you're riding home on a plane win or lose -- Flip was always upbeat. (He'd) talk to you, come back and see how you're feeling, especially during struggles. He was a fatherly figure, such a caring individual. It's just awful how this whole thing went down with the complications from his cancer. It's just a sad, sad day. He'll be greatly missed."

John Wall, who played for Saunders with the Wizards, issued his condolences on Instagram: "The sting of losing another loved one to cancer doesn't get any easier. My thoughts & prayers are with the Saunders &Twolves family."

Other tributes came in via Twitter to honor the popular coach.


Kevin Love, former Timberwolves player now with the Cleveland Cavaliers: "Flip you were one of a kind. Great basketball mind and even better human being. You had a great impact on my life personally and professionally. RIP my friend. Prayers are with the Saunders family during this time."

LeBron James: "My condolences to the Saunders and @Timberwolves family! Lost a great person in our fraternity way to early. So sad #RIPFlip."

Shaquille O'Neal: "My thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Flip Saunders family and friends. Rest In Heaven Coach, you will be missed!"

Los Angeles Clippers: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Flip Saunders as well as the @Timberwolves organization. #NBAFamily."

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