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Timberwolves owner: Flip Saunders won’t return this season

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach/president of basketball operations Flip Saunders won’t return to his duties this season, owner Glen Taylor said. Saunders has been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma since June.
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Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said Friday that head coach/president of basketball operations Flip Saunders won’t return to his job duties this season as he continues his battle with cancer, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

The news comes after the Star-Tribune reported earlier this month that Saunders’s health had taken a downturn.

“I just think his illness, I mean, it’s serious,” Taylor said, according to the Star-Tribune. “At this point, if he came back I still think he’d have a hard time to recover all his energy and all that because he has been in the hospital for a long time.”

The Timberwolves first announced that Saunders had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August. (Saunders received his diagnosis in June.) At the time, the team said Saunders would continue in his job duties “uninterrupted.”

In September, though, Saunders experienced complications after undergoing chemotherapy treatment and was admitted to a local hospital, where he has remained since. At the time of Saunders’s hospitalization, the team promoted assistant coach Sam Mitchell to interim head coach and gave additional duties to general manager Milt Newton.

Taylor said Friday that Mitchell and Newton would continue to have power over personnel decisions in Saunders’s absence.

Saunders returned for a second coaching stint with the T-Wolves in June 2014 and coached Minnesota to a 16–66 record last season. He first spent 10 seasons from 1995 to 2005 as the T-Wolves’ head coach before leaving for stints with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. Over 17 seasons, Saunders holds a 427–392 record in regular-season games and a 17–30 mark in the playoffs.

The Timberwolves open the 2015–16 season on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ben Estes