Report: Cancer battle ongoing for Timberwolves’ Saunders

The announcement by Golden State that Warriors coach Steve Kerr is taking a leave of absence to recover from back surgery brought the number of NBA head coaches dealing with health issues this preseason to two. The other, of course, is Minnesota’s Flip Saunders, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma and will not be actively involved with the Timberwolves for at least the first half of the 2015-16 season.

Saunders’ dual role as president/head coach is being handled on an interim basis by GM Milt Newton and assistant coach Sam Mitchell. The organization is giving Saunders and his family as much time and privacy as they need while fighting his illness. Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune did provide an update Thursday during a live chat on the newspaper’s website:

There’s no question things have changed dramatically since the team announced his diagnosis in August, back when it quoted his doctors saying the cancer was very treatable and curable. Since then there have been changes to the way his body handled the chemotherapy (and maybe how much cancer they’ve found) that have made it life threatening. Everyone involved has gone radio silent because of the family’s request for privacy and federal patient-privacy laws, etc., but between the complete silence, the lack of people visiting as far as I can tell apart from his immediate family and very inner circle while he remains hospitalized here in Minneapolis and the things I’m hearing second-hand, well, none of it is good. I’ll just say this, and this is just my own opinion, if he pulls through this: I doubt very much he’s back this year, it’s probably unlikely he coaches again just because of the stress inherent doing both those jobs and I think there’s a pretty good chance he doesn’t return full time to either job. As far as the franchise goes, that will put them in a holding pattern for some time. I can’t see Glen Taylor allowing Milt Newton and Sam to make a major decision until they know more about Flip’s future and Glen decides who will run his team for the long term. I wouldn’t assume it’ll be Milt and Sam going forward, that’s just for the short term until things become clearer.


  1. Harriethehawk says:

    From a basketball standpoint, I never expected Flip Saunders to maintain his coaching position on any long term basis. I even thought it was to possibly attract Kevin Garnett, which they did, and he would then take a back seat. From a personal standpoint I agree that we come before any job. To say he may not return this season tells me this is very serious. I respected him as a coach and felt like he brought life and morale to this younger Timberwolves team. I wish him and the Timberwolves the very best.

  2. Jeffery Scott says:

    I hope & pray for Flip’s complete recovery.

  3. patrickmarc says:

    He has to be there, (I hope so much!) with the excellent team he has got this year

  4. asdf says:

    Get well flip, I hope you have a full and speedy recovery!.

  5. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the easiest cancers to deal with.

    There’s an oncologist that jokes he’d rather have Hodgkin’s lymphoma than the flu.

    It’s still cancer but it’s cure rate is pretty high.

  6. jcrossover7 says:

    Praying for you Flip Sanders! Please get better we need you in the league!!

  7. Scott says:

    Cancer is preventable. It’s a natural response to living in a toxic polluted environment.

  8. TL says:

    I hope Flip will get well soon!!

  9. Aaron Noetzelman says:

    Get well Flipper! I’m praying for you and a full recovery!

  10. JImmy says:

    Our prayers are with you and your family Flip…

  11. Nick says:

    Our prayers are with you and your family, Flip! God bless you

  12. SuperTrader says:

    Basketball is not important when it comes to someones life. I hope Flip pulls through he seems to be a very good person. He has my prayers.