Flip Saunders, the Minnesota Timberwolves head of basketball operations and head coach, died, the team announced Sunday. He was 60 years old and had been battling Hodgkin's lymphoma.
While Saunders built his legacy with the Timberwolves as both a coach and executive, Saunders coached the Detroit Pistons from 2006-08. Tasked with replacing Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who won a championship and went back to the NBA Finals in his two years in Detroit, all Saunders did was win 176 games in his three seasons with the Pistons.
It is Saunders, in fact, that owns the franchise record for winning percentage with a 71.5 percent mark. Saunders kept the Pistons' stout defense and improved Detroit's offense to one of the most potent in the league in the regular season. It was under Saunders that Detroit fielded four all-stars, and he helped turn Chauncey Billups into one of the best point guards in the NBA. Unfortunately, Saunders' offense could never get over the hump in the playoffs and he was fired, starting the organization's tailspin from which it's just now recovering.
Detroit Bad Boys sends its thoughts and prayers to Flip Saunders' family, and to the larger NBA family that is so saddened by this tragic event. Sixty years old is way too young. Cancer sucks.
Please share your condolences in the comments, and visit SBNation's Minnesota Timberwolves blog Canis Hoopus to send some positive vibes during this difficult time.
Update: The Pistons released the following statement Sunday afternoon:
"It is with tremendous sorrow that the Detroit Pistons organization acknowledges the passing of Flip Saunders. He will be remembered by Pistons fans as one of the franchise’s most successful head coaches - leading the club to three consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances and a franchise-record 64 wins in 2005-06. Flip was a great ambassador for the Metro Detroit community and had a positive influence on those who had the opportunity to spend time with him. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Debbie, his children Ryan, Mindy, Rachel, Kimberly and all his friends throughout the extended Detroit Pistons and NBA family."