In Memorium: Philip “Flip” Saunders, 1955-2015


ThroughMyEyesnew3I was saddened to hear of Flip Saunders passing, Sunday, October 25, 2015. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to his family, his team and to Glen Taylor and the whole Timberwolves organization.

I first saw Flip Saunders as a University of Minnesota freshman. He remains the best point guard in Gopher history. I watched many of his games. From the very beginning, from when he first came to Minnesota from Ohio, he became a Minnesota man. Throughout his career he always maintained a home in Minnesota. He earned his nickname from his mother who heard it used when they were at a barbershop.

Winner of over 1,000 games (654 in the NBA), his coaching career started at Golden Valley Lutheran College, where he never lost a home game, and ended as the winningest coach in Timberwolves history. In each of his tours (three Championships in the Continental Basketball League; the only coach to take the Timberwolves to the NBA playoffs), he leaves with legendary respect among his NBA peers, professionally and personally, the foundation of true legacies.

He was head coach of the Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards, and twice with the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is a testament to the character of the man and the Timberwolves owner and managers to recognize the error in firing him after his first tour and bring him back for a second. It is a measure of the character of Flip Saunders that he had the patience to wait for them to catch up with him.

Unlike with many, it is not cliché to talk about the positive manner he chose to his life. He is one of the greatest gentlemen that the game has ever known, which is why those he met were so deeply touched in a very positive manner, and why so many had such high respect for him. In a word, he always took the high road.

I met Coach Saunders a couple of times in different settings, and have written positively about him in this column before. He was one of those whose career I enjoyed following. I always found him to be a very decent and committed person.

Those I knew who also knew Saunders always spoke highly of him. Wherever he went to coach and live, he was a winner, on and off the court. Part of his legacy is how he led and inspired, bringing flare and charisma to every game.

He was a terrific coach, known for having one of the best offensive minds ever. He always had his thick playbook. He always had plans. My continued hope and prayer is that state and local leaders in government and community work will also develop a playbooks with workable plans.

He must have had a “just in case” plan, given the caliber of personnel and assistants he brought in for the 2015-2016 season, using his three hats: president of basketball operations, head coach, and part owner.

Flip Saunders’ legacy will continue to lead and inspire. May he be remembered by naming the Target Center basketball court The Flip Saunders Court.

Known as a terrific person always willing to help others in need of support, he leaves many positive memories that will comfort his family as well as the Timberwolves, as all face a future without his physical presence.

He was a great family man. I wish his family all the support and love needed, as it is harder on them than on his players, coaches, friends, and fans.

Thank you Flip for all that you have given us. Our prayers are for you and your family.


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