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Flip Saunders tried to hire Jeff Van Gundy as Timberwolves head coach

Flip Saunders is 638-526 (.548) in 16 seasons as an NBA head coach. (Jordan Johnson/Getty Images) Flip Saunders is 638-526 (.548) in 16 seasons as an NBA head coach. (Jordan Johnson/Getty Images)

Minnesota Timberwolves president and part-owner Flip Saunders will coach the team next season, but the 59-year-old said he made an important call before giving himself the job — reaching out to Jeff Van Gundy.

“The first guy that I went to and tried to get was Jeff Van Gundy. He was the first guy,” Saunders told Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Thursday. “… He’s a guy that [owner] Glen [Taylor] and I were comfortable [with] and would have hired him off the bat. I feel like he’s the best coach, the best coach out there and has a lot of the same philosophies.

“As Jeff said to me ... ‘Whenever I go somewhere I want to feel that I’m the right guy for that job.’ He said, ‘The reason I didn’t go to Minnesota was because I felt you were the right guy for the job, not me, and I was uncomfortable.’”

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Taylor reportedly didn't want Saunders to do both jobs, but he changed his mind on Tuesday.

Saunders didn't offer the job to Memphis coach Dave Joerger, according to Hartman, but he did have discussions with the Minnesota native before the latter agreed to an extension with the Grizzlies.

“First of all, the interview process was interesting,” Saunders said. “We talked to a lot of people, a lot of good people. Some college guys, [Michigan State’s] Tom Izzo is a friend of mine, [Iowa State’s] Freddie Hoiberg. When you go through that situation they have things they want to do. To coach at [the NBA] level is difficult because there’s a lot of factors that get involved. So when it came down to it and we started going through everybody, I went to Glen this week and I said, ‘Here’s some options we have.’ Then Glen said, based on where our team is right now, I think you’re the best viable option to coach this team and move forward.”

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