Flip Saunders to wear two hats for Timberwolves, takes over as head coach
Since it appeared that no one wanted to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves, President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders reportedly has decided to hire himself and will be the next coach of the long-floundering franchise, according to a Star Tribune report referencing AP sources.
A source told ESPN.com that Saunders intends to reach out to Chauncey Billups, who played under Saunders for several seasons, to work as an assistant coach. Team general manager Milt Newton reportedly will assume more of the day-to-day, front office operations under the new arrangement.
After gauging the interest of college coaches Fred Hoiberg and Tom Izzo, the Wolves appeared to have Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger all locked up before the Griz’s owner realized the team had a pretty good coach and made moves to retain him. This left Saunders and the T’Wolves more or less scrounging the bottom of the coaching barrel in its search to replace Rick Adelman, who announced his retirement from coaching following the conclusion of the season.
Saunders of course is stepping into familiar territory having coached the Timberwolves from 1995-2005, overseeing the golden age of the franchise along with Kevin Garnett. He easily remained the most successful head coach in team history, amassing 411 wins and leading the team to all eight of its playoff appearances, including a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004.
Saunders went on to coaching stints with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, compiling a 638-526 coaching record in 16 NBA seasons.
The native Minnesotan returned to take over a long-suffering franchise who hasn’t reached the postseason since his departure last year. His primary task was attempting to repair the rift between the team and Kevin Love caused by the ineffective, arguably incompetent, management of David Kahn.
Despite stating in April that he had no intent of coaching the team despite reports that indicated otherwise, Saunders’ primary task remains to somehow convince Love to stay, even though it appears the writing is on the wall and that ship already has sailed.
If that is indeed the case, Saunders must put on his executive hat and ensure that the team gets maximum value for Love, all while trying to coach the team. It sure sounds like a lot of work. But for Saunders, a coaching lifer, that clearly must be just the kind of challenge he craves.