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Report: Flip Saunders to become next Timberwolves coach

Jun 5, 2014, 11:14 AM EST

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

When Vinny Del Negro becomes a serious candidate, your coaching search has nosedived.

Perhaps luckily for the Timberwolves, the man piloting the search – team president Flip Saunders – has plenty of coaching experience himself and can help Minnesota make an emergency landing.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press:

The first question: What does this mean for Kevin Love?

If the Timberwolves win enough next season, they might have a chance to re-sign Love. That type of turnaround is not unprecedented. The Trail Blazers changed an unhappy LaMarcus Aldridge’s perception of them this season, and now he wants to stay long-term.

But Minnesota would have to chance keeping Love beyond the trade deadline – let alone beyond the offseason, as his value will only diminish as the season progresses – and make the playoffs just to have a chance.

Can Saunders deliver the Timberwolves first postseason berth since he coached the team more than a decade ago?

Saunders first became an NBA coach with Minnesota, where he had a mostly successful 10-year run but – with only one exception – failed to get Kevin Garnett out of the first round. He jumped to the Pistons and reached the conference finals in all three years in Detroit, but Joe Dumars had higher aspirations and fired him. After a year off, he resurfaced with the Wizards, and – despite all his prestige – never got the team out of the cellar.

Is Saunders, once renowned for his expansive offensive playbook, trending down as an NBA coach? Has the league changed faster than he can adapt?

Maybe.

It’s also possible he just ran into bad fortune in Washington and can re-gain his status as one of the NBA’s better coaches.

At 59, he’s still young enough to do the job for several more years if he desires. However, his preference might be for the front office, which could mean coaching as a one-year stop gap until he can conduct a better search for a replacement next offseason.

Whatever Saunders does, keeping Love is a big long shot – not that Saunders is afraid to fight against the odds.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Billups is still under contract with the Pistons, though it’s unlikely they’ll exercise his $2.5 million team option for next season. A bigger problem: Billups has always said he wants to pursue a front-office, rather than coaching, career.

Perhaps, Saunders – who coached Billups in both Detroit and Minnesota – could persuade his former player to detour those plans. Billups signing with the Pistons last summer seemed like a precursor to a front-office position under Dumars, but with Dumars out, that might no longer be viable.

If Billups can get a front-office job somewhere next season – assuming he retires from playing, which seems probable, though not entirely certain – I bet he takes that over a coaching offer from Saunders. But working in coaching might be a means to the end.

Billups can look at his current team – former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy is president, and former New Orleans Hornets coach Jeff Bower is general manager – and see a clear path between coaching and working in a front office.

He could also look as his potential next team and see the same.

  1. ironyisadeadscene - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Well, the more things change…..

  2. spursareold - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    [Love increases the speed of packing his bags]

  3. grndizzle - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Is it Groundhog Day or something?

  4. jazz11001 - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Never out of the first round? Who was coaching in the western conference finals?

    • spursareold - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Uh, did you miss the part about ‘with one exception’?

    • Dan Feldman - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Read the whole sentence.

      “Saunders first became an NBA coach with Minnesota, where he had a mostly successful 10-year run but – with only one exception – failed to get Kevin Garnett out of the first round.”

  5. bucrightoff - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    They would be very foolish to hold onto him in the hopes he changes his mind and stays. Yes it sucks losing a top 10 player, but it sucks even more when you lose that player for nothing. The West is too brutal and at best Minnesota might be able to creep into the 6 seed, but they are so far from being contenders they shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking they can turn it around quickly. Trade Love, reload with youth and in a few years when San Antonio and OKC and LAC are on the downslide maybe they’ll be ready to compete.

  6. lphboston - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Love is out the door.

    The only question is whether the Wolves get 100 cents on the dollar (draft day deal), 50 cents on the dollar (trading deadline deal next February), or zero cents on the dollar (free agent this time next year).

  7. loubearkane - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Where did all the Vinny Del Negro hate start? He is a good coach , thought he did a great job with the Bulls , Paxson & Forman didn’t like how much he played his guys , well guess what if your job is on the hook with Wins & Losses you try and win every game.

    Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
    CHI 2008–09 82 41 41 .500 2nd in Central 7 3 4 .429 Lost in First Round
    CHI 2009–10 82 41 41 .500 3rd in Central 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
    LAC 2010–11 82 32 50 .390 4th in Pacific — — — — Missed Playoffs
    LAC 2011–12 66 40 26 .606 2nd in Pacific 11 4 7 .364 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
    LAC 2012–13 82 56 26 .683 1st in Pacific 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round

  8. loubearkane - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    How is Flip Saunders a BETTER choice

    Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
    MIN 1995–96 62 20 42 .323 6th in Midwest — — — — Missed Playoffs
    MIN 1996–97 82 40 42 .488 3rd in Midwest 3 0 3 .000 Lost in First Round
    MIN 1997–98 82 45 37 .549 3rd in Midwest 5 2 3 .400 Lost in First Round
    MIN 1998–99 50 25 25 .500 4th in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
    MIN 1999–00 82 50 32 .610 3rd in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
    MIN 2000–01 82 47 35 .573 4th in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
    MIN 2001–02 82 50 32 .610 3rd in Midwest 3 0 3 .000 Lost in First Round
    MIN 2002–03 82 51 31 .622 3rd in Midwest 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round
    MIN 2003–04 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 18 10 8 .556 Lost in Conf. Finals
    MIN 2004–05 51 25 26 .490 (fired) — — — — —
    DET 2005–06 82 64 18 .780 1st in Central 18 10 8 .556 Lost in Conf. Finals
    DET 2006–07 82 53 29 .649 1st in Central 16 10 6 .625 Lost in Conf. Finals
    DET 2007–08 82 59 23 .720 1st in Central 17 10 7 .588 Lost in Conf. Finals
    WAS 2009–10 82 26 56 .317 5th in Southeast — — — — Missed Playoffs
    WAS 2010–11 82 23 59 .280 5th in Southeast — — — — Missed Playoffs
    WAS 2011–12 17 2 15 .118 (fired) — — — — —

  9. thekingdave - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    Yeah, I know everyone here likes to pick on your for your writing errors, but how do you not remember the Twolves being the #1 western conference seed in 2004? You used to write for Forum Blue and Gold correct? How do you not remember your Lakers upsetting them in the WCF?

    • spursareold - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Can you people not f’ing READ?????

      Saunders first became an NBA coach with Minnesota, where he had a mostly successful 10-year run but – with only one exception – failed to get Kevin Garnett out of the first round.

      The EXCEPTION was that flukish trip to the WCFs.

  10. lbeezyse - Jun 5, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    I think Flip is a stop gap until next year. If Izzo was as close as suggested by some to becoming the Wolves coach I think next year Flip will be able to convince Izzo or Hoiberg.

  11. jollyjoker2 - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    this is silly..get a good young coach with potential instead of a never was trying to do both.

  12. xmatt0926x - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    I don’t know. When you hear a name like Flip Saunders, it kind of puts home the point that your franchise is irrelevant. It’s kind of like an NFL team hiring Norv Turner.

  13. flickflint - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    Good, get the guy off ESPN and away from my TV. He is very hard to look at

  14. twinfan24 - Jun 5, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Not a big fan of Flip being coach. But, it seems like no big names wanted to come there with the doubt about Love and how the rest of the roster will be compiled. If Flip is coaching for a year or two until they can find someone else, then it’s probably fine. But, I don’t think Flip doing both roles long term is a good thing. But, then again, Taylor doesn’t seem to be able to make great hiring decisions for the Wolves. Seems to think too much with his heart than his head.

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