The world lost an incredible person, student, teacher, father, husband, and friend on Sunday when Flip Saunders passed away at the age of 60. The Minnesota Timberwolves announced the devastating news on Sunday.
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.
The organization will follow up with more information as it becomes available.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor also released a statement on Flip’s passing with a touching message.
“It is with tremendous difficulty and deep sadness that the Timberwolves acknowledge the passing of our President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach, Flip Saunders. Flip was a symbol of strength, compassion, and dignity for our organization. He was a shining example of what a true leader should be, defined by his integrity and kindness to all he encountered. Today is not a day to reflect on Flip’s accomplishments in basketball or what he brought to us as an organization on the court, but rather to indicate what he meant to us as a co-worker, friend, member of the community and the basketball world at large. We as an organization are devastated by his passing, and our hearts and prayers go out to Debbie and the entire Saunders family as they endure this extraordinary loss.”
Anybody who ever had the joy and honor of interacting with Flip knew what an incredible person he was. You couldn’t help but feel like he was genuinely interested in what you had to say. He loved the interaction on the court. He spent more time conversing with people well after his professional obligation than was necessary. It’s impossible to find someone with a bad word to say about the person Flip was.
He’s the most important person in the game of basketball in Minnesota’s state history. He’s twice been put in charge to help turn the Wolves into a winning organization. The first time began in 1995 and while the Wolves didn’t end up winning a championship, you can’t help but fondly remember how he helped structure a memorable team around Kevin Garnett that helped many of us fall in love with basketball or further that love even more.
The second time, he cleaned up another mess and handled a seemingly dire situation with patience, poise, confidence, and excellence. He turned the impending loss of the Wolves’ franchise player into two building blocks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns who will shape the next successful venture for this organization. His son Ryan Saunders will be able to carry on the family name in coaching as one of the better young developmental coaches in the NBA. And he brought back KG to the organization, not just to inject local interest but to also help continue the one thing in the game of basketball Flip seemed to love more than anything: teaching.
Put Flip's banner right next to Malik's🙏🏾
— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) October 25, 2015
Whether you agreed with Flip’s approach or not, there was no denying his wealth of knowledge, experience, and hunger for the game of basketball. This season will be tough with the passing hanging over the team, fan base, culture, and state. But it’s also a great opportunity to celebrate who he was and the impact he had, which is vast beyond any words that could attempt to sum up what he meant.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Flip’s wife Debbie, his children Ryan, Rachel, Kimberly, and Mindy, the Wolves’ family, and friends. Flip was taken from them far too early, but we know he’s in a better place now. Rest in peace, Flip, and thank you for everything you taught us.