Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Saunders to coach Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS — Timberwolves president Flip Saunders will not let his miserable run with the Wizards go down as the lasting memory of his coaching career.

After conducting a coaching search for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since he was on the sideline a decade ago, Saunders decided he was once again the best man for the job.

Saunders said Thursday that he hired himself as coach and would speak in detail at a news conference today.

"I like Flip," Timberwolves forward and former Gator standout Corey Brewer said. "He's the best coach the Timberwolves have ever had. It's all about winning."

There is no specific length of time Saunders will coach, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

Saunders adds to his list of duties as the organization enters a tenuous period. All-Star forward Kevin Love will be a free agent in the summer and has made it known he wants out.

Rick Adelman retired after the regular season. Saunders and owner Glen Taylor met this week and agreed that Saunders as coach was the best option after he inquired with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and former coach/current TV analyst Jeff Van Gundy about their interest in the job, and had interviewed former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, Lionel Hollins and Scott Skiles, and aggressively pursued Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger before he decided to stay in Memphis.

Saunders had sounded hesitant about returning to the bench since returning to Minnesota for a front-office position last year, but he also never denied the lure of coaching.

Saunders joins the Spurs' Gregg Popovich, the Clippers' Doc Rivers and the Pistons' Stan Van Gundy as coaches with executive authority. He got 411 of his 638 career coaching victories with the Timberwolves from 1995-2005. With Kevin Garnett as the franchise cornerstone, the Timberwolves made eight straight playoff appearances, including the 2004 Western Conference final.

After his first stint in Minnesota ended, Saunders moved on to Detroit, where he led the Pistons to three straight trips to the Eastern Conference final before getting dismissed in 2008.

The Wizards hired Saunders in April 2009, hoping he could help the team make another playoff run with Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. The first season was a flop, with Arenas' suspension for bringing a gun into the Wizards locker room leading to a franchise reboot.

Saunders was eventually fired Jan. 24, 2012, after the Wizards stumbled to a 2-15 start. He went 51-130 in Washington, and his .282 winning percentage is the worst of any coach in franchise history with at least 100 games.

Thunder: GM Sam Presti backed often-criticized coach Scott Brooks, saying he did "an excellent job" this season. "I understand, we all have a tendency to look at the last game and the last series. I respect it. That's part of sports," Presti said. "I can't do that." An NBA Finals appearance in 2012 fueled fans' expectations, so when the Spurs beat the Thunder in the Western Conference final, it didn't go over well with some. Naysayers also believe Brooks' offensive strategy gives point guard Russell Westbrook too much freedom at the expense of MVP Kevin Durant.

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