MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves' best days came with Flip Saunders on the sideline.
Now that the organization is shrouded in uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of star forward Kevin Love, Saunders is returning to the bench to try revive a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years.
With the team's coaching search complicated by Love's status, 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 spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not officially announced the move. A news conference was scheduled for Friday.
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 closely 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.