MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Flip Saunders is moving down from the front office to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After the team's coaching search was complicated by Kevin Love's uncertain future in Minnesota, the Timberwolves decided the best course of action was to have Saunders, who was hired last season as president of basketball operations, step in for a second stint as coach until the situation stabilized, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday. The people requested anonymity because the team has not officially announced the move.
Saunders previously coached the Timberwolves from 1995-2005. He won 411 games in 10½ seasons in Minnesota and guided the Wolves to the only eight playoff appearances in franchise history, including the Western Conference finals in 2004. He has a career record of 638-526 in 16 seasons as an NBA head coach, a career that also includes stops in Detroit and Washington.
Saunders is joining a short list in the NBA of coaches that also have final-say executive authority, one that includes newly hired Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers and, to a certain extent, Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Saunders will continue to work with GM Milt Newton in the front office while handling coaching duties.
When Rick Adelman retired at the end of the regular season, he did so in part to try to help the Timberwolves move forward with a plan to show Love, a three-time All-Star who can opt out of his contract next summer, that there was a long-term plan in place for success.
But Love's tenuous situation only complicated the search process, with trade rumors serving as a caution sign for several high-profile candidates.
Saunders was in the market for a coach with extensive head coaching experience, either in the NBA or at a major college program, one that could command the respect of a young locker room and also handle the media scrutiny that comes with the questions surrounding Love. Names like Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Fred Hoiberg came and went without any traction.