Sportress of Blogitude

Timberwolves raise banner in tribute to the late Flip Saunders (vid)

The Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night paid tribute to the memory of Flip Saunders, the iconic coach and executive who is perhaps one of the most beloved individuals in franchise history.

Saunders passed away at the age of 60 in October 2015 after a battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. At the time of his diagnosis, Saunders was serving as the Timberwolves president of basketball operations as well as head coach.

Kevin Harlan, a former Timerwolves broadcaster who was in town to call the game against the Los Angeles Lakers for TNT, emceed an event that included a raising of a banner into the rafters of Target Center.

Several former players who worked under Saunders when he was Minnesota’s head coach were on hand for the ceremony, including Chauncey Billups, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassel.

Several luminaries made comments during the tribute, but perhaps the ones that resonated most were those made by Saunders’ wife, Debbie.

“The last two years, the family has had to be brave,” Debbie Saunders said, via ESPN. “It wasn’t easy. Some days are better than others. One thing was very clear to all of us: We could not have done this without your love, support and kindness. The Target Center has always felt like home to us and still does. Flip loved it. Flip was passionate about Minnesota and basketball, but he was also a good man, good father and a good husband.

“I know Flip would want me to tell all of you that he is very touched by this moment. … Keep up the Minnesota humble and kind.”

Those who were around during Saunders’ time in Minnesota, an era that went all the way back to his days playing college basketball for the Minnesota Gophers, will tell you the indelible impact the man had on basketball in the state. Saunders was a true ambassador to the game he loved so deeply. The Timberwolves’ ceremony was a fitting tribute to not only a great basketball mind, but a great human being as well.