Pistons Name Flip Saunders as Head Coach
Name: Philip (Flip) Saunders.
Records: Went 253-157 in the CBA; ranks third all-time in league victories. Went 411-326 in nine-plus seasons with the Timberwolves. His 17-30 NBA playoff record included seven consecutive first-round exits, in 1997-2003, before Minnesota lost to Lakers in 2004 conference finals.
Family: Wife, Debbie, and four children.
“We are pleased to name Flip Saunders as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons,” said Dumars. “Flip has developed a reputation as one of the top coaches in the NBA and has a proven track record for developing players and getting the most out of the teams he has coached.”
Saunders, 50, brings a basketball resume that includes 16-plus years of coaching at the professional level. With 411 NBA coaching victories, Saunders ranks 33rd among all-time NBA head coaches and ninth among active NBA head coaches. He spent the last 10 years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, guiding the club to eight consecutive playoff appearances and a franchise-best 58-24 record in 2003-04 – the top record in the Western Conference. During his tenure in Minnesota, Saunders won NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month honors four times (April ’04, February ’03, January ’01, January ’00). As a head coach in the Continental Basketball Association for seven years, he was named CBA Coach of the Year in 1990 and 1992 while coaching the La Crosse Catbirds to two CBA Championships. In September 2001, Saunders guided the United States men’s basketball team to a perfect 5-0 record and gold medal at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia.
“I am excited to become part of the Pistons organization,” said Saunders, who becomes the 25th coach in Pistons franchise history. “This team has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success over the past two seasons with consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and a NBA Championship in 2004. I’m excited about the challenges ahead and helping this organization achieve its goals.”
Saunders’ nine-plus seasons with Minnesota represented the best years in the franchise’s 16-year history and placed him as the organization’s winningest coach. He posted a winning record in six of his nine full seasons as head coach, won 50-plus games in a season four times and compiled a career record of 411-326 (.558). From 1997-2004, Saunders guided the Timberwolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances, culminating in a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. During the 1997-98 season, he guided Minnesota to its first winning season in franchise history (45-37) and its first postseason victory.
Saunders’ impressive CBA coaching resume includes seven consecutive seasons of 30 or more victories, two CBA Championships (1990, 1992), two CBA Coach of the Year honors (1990, 1992) and 23 CBA-to-NBA player promotions. He ranks third all-time in the CBA with 253 career victories during stops with the Rapid City Thrillers (1988-89), La Crosse Catbirds (1989-94) and Sioux Falls Skyforce (1994-95).
The Cleveland, Ohio native began his successful coaching career at Golden Valley Lutheran College, where he compiled a 92-13 record, including a perfect 56-0 mark at home in four seasons. In 1981, he joined the coaching staff at this alma matter – The University of Minnesota – as an assistant and helped the Golden Gophers to the 1982 Big Ten Championship. After five seasons at Minnesota, Saunders moved to an assistant coach position at the University of Tulsa, where he worked for two seasons before heading to the pro ranks.
Saunders was an All-America basketball player at Cuyahoga Heights High School in Cleveland. During his senior season, 1973, he was named Ohio’s Class A High School Basketball Player of the Year after averaging a state-high 32.0 points a game. He continued his basketball career at Minnesota, where he teamed with Kevin McHale, led the team to a then all-time school-best 24-3 record and started in 101 of his 103 career games.