On Thursday night, Flip Saunders confirmed that he has signed a long-term contract to become the president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Saunders will also hold a minority ownership stake in the team.
Saunders spent 10 seasons as the head coach of the Timberwolves from 1995-2004. He led Minnesota to eight-straight playoff appearances and a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2003. He later coached the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards for three seasons each.
The Wizards fired Saunders 17 games into the 2011-12 season. Since then he has been an NBA analyst for ESPN.
The 58-year-old Saunders claims he turned down the chance to be the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, this spring. Clearly he has had enough of coaching, at least for the time being.
With Saunders coming in, that spells the end of the David Kahn era for the Timberwolves. Kahn’s contract had a team option for the 2013-14 season, but Minnesota has confirmed that it will not be picked up.
Kahn’s four-year tenure as the Timberwolves president of basketball operations was horrendous for the franchise. In his first draft with the team in 2009 he famously selected three point guards in the first round (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson). After snagging Rubio with the fifth pick, Kahn chose Flynn over Stephen Curry at No. 6, then took Lawson with the 18th pick, only to trade him to the Denver Nuggets.
As we all know, Curry has gone on to become a star and Lawson has become an excellent point man in Denver, while Flynn is now playing in Australia for the Melbourne Tigers. Kahn’s next three first-round picks, Wayne Ellington (No. 28 in 2009), Wesley Johnson (No. 4 in 2010), Lazar Hayward (no. 30 in 2010) and Derrick Williams (No. 2 in 2011), have all largely been busts.
During Kahn’s four-year stretch with the team, the Timberwolves finished a combined 89-223 and never reached the postseason. He also repeatedly butted heads with the team’s lone All-Star, forward Kevin Love.
Saunders will be expected to turn things around quickly.