The Minnesota Timberwolves host their first home game of the season tonight, and beforehand played a long and heartfelt tribute to Flip Saunders, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma a week ago. Saunders was the Timberwolves’ coach and president of basketball operations, but to residents of Minnesota, Flip was so much more, someone who loved the state as much as any native son and who promoted it at every opportunity.
A high school star in suburban Cleveland, Saunders went to college at the University of Minnesota, where he starred alongside Kevin McHale and Mychal Thompson. He coached at Golden Valley Bible College in suburban Minneapolis, and then was an assistant at the U of M, before his coaching odyssey took him to Tulsa and the far northern plains. From 1995-2005 he was the general manager and then head coach of the Timberwolves, before going off to Detroit and Washington, returning to the franchise last season.
Saunders was in charge during the team’s best times—the Kevin Garnett years, when they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2004—and executed some of the recent turnaround that sees them stocked with young stars and with a bright future ahead.
Numerous people across the NBA who knew and loved Flip—including current Timberwolves players—contributed to the tribute. A notable absence? Kevin Garnett, who unsurprisingly was unable to keep his emotions in check enough to record a message.
Below are videos of the tribute to Flip from coaches, players, and broadcasters across the NBA, as well as a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in his honor.
[Fox Sports North]