Wolves’ Flip Saunders was a minded student and the ultimate mentor of basketball.
Twice during the nearly-40 years of his basketball fostering career, Flip Saunders was asked to manage the Timberwolves, maybe because he was an icon in Minnesota basketball’s folklore. However, he started learning the game in Cleveland, where he was the state’s Player of the Year in his senior season at Cuyahoga Heights High School.
His high school exploits took him to the University of Minnesota where he’d help the Golden Gophers to their best season in the school’s history. It is also the place where he left his mark on Minnesota basketball. He played with future NBA stars like Mychal Thompson, Ray Williams and Kevin McHale and used every bit of experience and learning he could get under Bill Mussel and Jim Dutcher to become a top student of the game. Sanders was always looking forward to learning more about the game.
Five days before the team opens its regular season, Timberwolves’ owner, Glen Taylor had stated that the coach and President of basketball operations won’t return this season because of complications resulting from his chemotherapy. Taylor called the aftermath, ” an implausible situation that they hadn’t apprehended going into this season”
Furthermore, he revealed that he spoke with the squad’s players about Saunders’ condition and his sway on all of them as coach, Chief basketball decision-maker and franchise part owner, during a team dinner. In September, Taylor told the team’s employees to leave Saunders alone with his family so that he may get time to rest and recuperate. Everyone was expecting him to make a strong return like he always did throughout his career and life in general.
Flip Saunders’ commitment, discretion and energy made one of the NBA’s most heavy-duty team executives. Long after he was deemed too small to make it big in the sport he loved, Flip Saunders rose from collegiate-playing to become one of the most potent team executives in the abridged National Basketball Association during his time with the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves announced Sunday with extreme grief that it’s part owner, President of basketball operations and head coach had died just a few months after he began chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 60.
Owner Glen Taylor stated that Flip was a hallmark of firepower, altruism and nobility for their congress. He was a dazzling example of what a true leader should be, he was determined by his integrity and warm heartedness to all he encountered, garnering respect from his opposite numbers and making friends out them throughout a career that was forged by a strong work ethic, perseverance, dedication and great man management skills.
He was a willing student and a teacher of basketball. In fact, his playbook reflects more than that.
He had that sparkle in him that defined him from the first time he stepped foot in the courtyard. Once he told a reporter that “Don’t listen to what people say because they can’t comprehend the will that you’ve”.
Yesterday, Minnesota lost a basketball icon but his legacy, in the shape of his son Ryan, remains. At the age of 29, Ryan has worked his way up as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. He might still be finding his real self out there but the sparkle in his eyes is a clear case of an amazing evolution – from father to mentor to what could be a future Minnesota coach.
Hey may have left us but he Flip made sure that he left us feeling great about the game and for that, his contributions to the game will never be forgotten.