Minnesota Timberwolves president Flip Saunders has finally found a new head coach to replace the retired Rick Adelman. It’s Flip Saunders.
With no legit candidates emerging to his liking, the team president and part-owner declared himself the next head coach of the ‘Wolves, effective immediately.
Names like Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins, Billy Donovan and Tom Izzo popped up in rumors, but in the end Saunders returns to the post he once coached at.
The 59-year old Saunders originally joined the Timberwolves in 1995 as GM, where he started by working under former teammate and current Houston Rockets head coach, Kevin McHale. Saunders was quickly named head coach that year. The Timberwolves struggled in Saunders’ first season, but the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett shifted things dramatically and it wasn’t long before the T’Wolves were a household name.
Saunders spent 10 years with the team, making the playoffs in eight seasons before being fired with a 25-26 record during the 2004-05 NBA season. Saunders and the Wolves were known from 1996-2002 as a young and talented team that routinely made the playoffs, but couldn’t take the next step. Minnesota went “one and done” in post-season play a startling seven seasons in a row.
The Timberwolves finally took the next step during the 2003-04 season, however, as they added several key veterans that helped them win 58 games and nab their first finish atop the Midwest Division in the Western Conference. They would go on to reach the Western Conference Finals, where they fell to the favored Los Angeles Lakers, four games to one.
Saunders was fired before the end of the next season and moved on to coach the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, each for three seasons. Saunders proved some skeptics wrong about his coaching ability, taking a championship caliber Pistons team to the Eastern Conference Finals in three straight seasons. Saunders missed the playoffs with a bad Wizards team during his first two seasons before being fired just 17 games into the 2011-12 season.
Out of coaching for the past two years, Saunders has overseen the major moves in Minnesota the past two years. He will now try to succeed where he and Adelman have failed in trying to push another young and talented Minnesota roster over the hump.