Adam Silver, Larry Bird, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich were among the many prominent voices who filmed messages of appreciation for longtime Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who died last week 60 after battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Prior to Minnesota's home opener against Portland on Monday, the Timberwolves aired an extended video tribute to Saunders, the winningest coach in franchise history. The video, which included testimonials from his coaching colleagues and players, stressed Saunders’ love of the game, his innovative approach to coaching, his affable personality and his affinity for Minnesota.
The Timberwolves are off to a 2–0 start this season, claiming road wins over the Lakers and the Nuggets. Karl-Anthony Towns, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, credited Saunders” as the team’s “sixth man” after the victory over L.A., and multiple Minnesota players have dedicated this season to the memory of their former coach.
Here's a look at the pre-game tribute video.
The following is a sampling of the video’s messages.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver: “Nobody was more passionate about the game of basketball than Flip Saunders.”
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy: “Flip Saunders was one of the most creative and innovative coaches in the time I've been in the league.”
Heat president Pat Riley: “If you weren't prepared to play against his teams, he was going to make you look like a fool.”
Knicks president Phil Jackson: “I liked his coaching aspect because he did things that were unique. He didn't just follow the run of the mill plan that the NBA promotes.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: “Flip was what I call a lifer. He loved the game and respected the game like nobody's business. He was all in. He was obviously someone all of us respected very, very much. He was always humorous, helpful and sincere. Somebody you would jump into the foxhole with, without any doubt.”
Pacers president Larry Bird: “Everyone who came in contact with Flip as a person, not just as a coach, is blessed to have done so.”
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg: “You could call at three in the morning and Flip would answer the phone.”
Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio: “Flip was a great guy, passion for this game. He loved basketball and he loved everybody. He made everybody feel special.”
Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins: “He had a vision and we're trying to make that vision live on forever.”
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns: “I'm going to keep your vision alive. I'm going to keep working hard to make this organization into the vision you always had, which was us being a championship team.”
Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell: “You taught me a lot of things about basketball. But you taught me the most important thing is to be a decent human being and a caring human being.”
There was also a musical tribute along with a moment of silence in honor of Saunders.