PHIL “Flip” Saunders, coach and president of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, died Sunday at age 60 after a battle with cancer, the team announced.
Saunders won more than 1,000 games over a coaching career that spanned 35 years. As an NBA coach, Saunders went 654-594 with Minnesota, Detroit and Washington.
Saunders announced in August that he was being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and that it was considered treatable. But he was hospitalized in September after complications following chemotherapy.
The news came only a day after the Timberwolves revealed Saunders was too weak to coach the team at all in the upcoming season that begins next week.
“It is with extreme sadness that the Minnesota Timberwolves today learned that Phil ‘Flip’ Saunders, who served as the team’s president of basketball operations and head coach, in addition to being a minority owner of the team, passed away today at age 60,” a club statement said.
Sam Mitchell, a former coach of the Toronto Raptors, has guided the Timberwolves in the pre-season and will coach the club to open this season.
After a decade coaching developmental-level teams, Saunders was given his first NBA coaching job with Minnesota in 1995 and spent a decade with the T-Wolves, guiding the team to the 2004 Western Confernce final.
But the next season, Minnesota started 25-26 and Saunders was fired in February as the T-Wolves missed the playoffs.