Dan Monson was recently fired from his post as head coach of the University of Minnesota hoops team. Why does this matter to Piston fans? You guessed it, Flip Saunders. Flip (who is not the inspiration behind the gophers logo) is the University of Minnesota's prodigal son. Could the lure of home and the pressures of Dee-troit basketball send him on his way? The St. Paul Pioneer Press examines the issue; a few excerpts:
For more than two years, even when he was still coach of the Timberwolves, there has been quiet talk about the possibility of Flip Saunders returning to his alma mater to coach the Gophers when the job became available. That was because he would be a perfect fit.
And there is little doubt that if Saunders, now in his second year as coach of the Detroit Pistons, wants the Gophers job, he could have it. His hiring would result in fans lining up for season tickets.
Flip's son Ryan is a junior captain of the Gophers, and a daughter, Mindy, is a freshman on the Gophers' dance line. Saunders has kept his luxurious home in Medina while coaching in Detroit.
The question is whether Saunders would be willing to walk away from $12.5 million he is still owed by the Pistons for this season and the following two years. Or whether the Pistons would be willing to settle if Saunders expressed a desire to leave. A little birdie says he has an understanding with the Pistons that he could leave for the Gophers job
The article above involves much speculation, and there's very little evidence to show that Flip is eyeing the door. But it does confirm that Flip has been presented with the option and even speculates on a potential coaching staff. As Piston fans, we're versed in the "where there's smoke, there's fire" routine, so bear with me if I carry this rumor further than it deserves.
It is hard to imagine a better opportunity for Flip. I don't think many could hate the man too much should he choose to bag his NBA coaching career for family, as well as the security and idolatry that comes with coaching his alma mater. But is Flip's desire to succeed in the NBA so subservient to his desire to settle into retirement (which is essentially what the Minnesota job would be)? Would he give up on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and another shot at winning a title in the NBA? Would he welcome being seen as a failure in every corner of the NBA watching world (with the exception of Minnesota)?
UPDATE: Flip has weighed in. From today's Free Press:
"No, I'm here," Saunders said. "I'm an NBA coach. I jumped to that 12, 13 years ago to this league. So at this time in my life, I'm geared toward staying here. I like my situation where I'm at with Joe (Dumars) and John (Hammond, team vice president) and the players that we have here."