Flip Saunders, the longtime NBA coach who won more than 650 games in nearly two decades and was trying to rebuild the Minnesota Timberwolves as team president, coach and part owner, died Sunday, the team said. He was 60. Saunders was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in June and doctors called it "treatable and curable" when the Timberwolves made the diagnosis public in August. But he took a leave of absence from the team in September after complications arose during his recovery. Saunders went 654-592 in 17 NBA seasons with the Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, and Washington Wizards. Sam Mitchell has been named interim head coach of the Timberwolves and GM Milt Newton is heading the team's personnel department.
Philip Daniel Saunders was born on Feb. 23, 1955, in Cleveland and was a prep basketball star at Cuyahoga Heights High School. His mother Kay nicknamed him Flip after hearing the name at a beauty salon. He played in college at Minnesota, then decided to get into coaching and set about a long and winding path to the NBA, including seven seasons in the Continental Basketball Association. He began coaching the Timberwolves in 1995 and turned them into perennial playoff contenders. He then got fired, left to coach other teams, and returned as president of basketball operations in 2013. And he kept living in Minnesota even after being let go: "I'd say, 'Well, you don't really understand unless you're from Minnesota. You really don't get it,'" he once explained. "The loyalty and the passion that the people have here is what always drives me back."