The Minnesota Timberwolves officially named team president Flip Saunders as their head coach on Friday.
Saunders joined the Timberwolves’ front office last year and previously coached the team from 1995-2005.
Saunders, who guided the team to the 2004 Western Conference finals, will also remain in his role as the team’s president of basketball operations.
“After an exhaustive process and several thorough discussions with Flip, we came to the conclusion that he was the stabilizing force needed to lead our team,” owner Glen Taylor said in a statement. “Flip led us to our most successful seasons; he knows what it takes to win in the NBA as his track record speaks for itself. He is widely known as one of the most creative basketball minds and I believe he is the right coach to lead our team. Flip and (general manager) Milt Newton provide our front office the synergy needed to put our franchise in the best position to succeed now and in the future.”
Saunders takes over a team that went 40-42 last season under Rick Adelman, who announced his retirement in April.
The initial target of Saunders was Minnesota native Dave Joerger, who interviewed with the team before ultimately deciding to return to the Memphis Grizzlies with an adjusted contract.
Among other candidates were Vinny Del Negro, Sam Mitchell, Lionel Hollins and Scott Skiles.
Saunders guided the Timberwolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances. He is the Wolves’ all-time winningest coach with a 411-326 (.558) record.
“In talking to Glen, we came to the decision that this outcome would be the best for our franchise,” Saunders said in a statement. “I will work tirelessly to bring back the success our franchise experienced in the late ’90s to early 2000s. To that end, I will assemble a diverse, experienced coaching staff that will bring out the best in our players. Milt and I will continue to make the necessary moves that we believe will help our franchise return to the playoffs.”
The team has missed the playoffs six straight years and star forward Kevin Love plans to become a free agent after next season.
Saunders also coached the Detroit Pistons from 2005-08, winning three division titles and had a 176-70 (.715) record. He then coached the Washington Wizards for two-plus seasons. His career 638 coaching wins rank 20th on the all-time list and third among all active NBA head coaches.
Before coaching in the NBA, Saunders directed three different CBA teams to seven consecutive seasons of 30 or more wins, two championships (1990 and ’92) and two Coach of the Year honors (1990 and ’92) with the Rapid City Thrillers (1988-89), La Crosse Catbirds (1989-94) and Sioux Falls Skyforce (1994-95). He was also general manager of the Catbirds (1991-93).
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