The following is a statement from the Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor:
“It is with tremendous difficulty and deep sadness that the Timberwolves acknowledge the passing of our President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach, Flip Saunders. Flip was a symbol of strength, compassion, and dignity for our organization. He was a shining example of what a true leader should be, defined by his integrity and kindness to all he encountered. Today is not a day to reflect on Flip’s accomplishments in basketball or what he brought to us as an organization on the court, but rather to indicate what he meant to us as a co-worker, friend, member of the community and the basketball world at large. We as an organization are devastated by his passing, and our hearts and prayers go out to Debbie and the entire Saunders family as they endure this extraordinary loss.”
Phil “Flip” Saunders was named head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves on June 6, 2014 after returning to the organization on May 3, 2013 as the team’s President of Basketball Operations.
In two decades of coaching at the professional level, including 16-plus seasons in the NBA, Saunders cemented his reputation as one of the finest coaches in the game of basketball. With a record of 654-592 with the Wolves, Wizards and Pistons, he ranks 20th on the NBA all-time coaching wins chart, and his .525 winning percentage is 16th among all NBA coaches who have coached more than 1,110 games. Saunders had seven 50-win seasons to his credit as an NBA head coach, with four Conference Finals appearances in 11 postseason appearances.
In his first coaching stint with the Timberwolves (1995- 2005), Saunders guided the club to eight consecutive playoff appearances and a Western Conference-best and franchise-best 58-24 record in 2003-04 -- a season that culminated in a berth in the Western Conference Finals. 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) and coached the Western Conference during the 2004 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Saunders’ time with Timberwolves represented the best years in the franchise’s history, and placed him as the organization’s all-time winningest coach. He posted a winning record in six of his nine full seasons as head coach, compiling an overall record of 411-326 (.558).
Saunders was born February 23, 1955, in Cleveland, Ohio. He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and their four children: Ryan, Mindy and twins, Rachel and Kimberly.