Report: Flip Saunders to run basketball operations in Minnesota


Doubt if I come back here, though. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Former Wizards coach and current ESPN NBA analyst Flip Saunders appears set to find a new home in his old neighborhood. NBA.com is reporting that Saunders is in negotiations to replace David Kahn as president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wizards fired Flip Saunders in January 2012 after he went 51-130 in slightly more than two eventual and painful seasons in Washington. Saunders advised Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers during the team’s run to the Eastern Conference finals last season and joined ESPN as a studio analyst before this season. But he has been eager to get back in the NBA in some capacity, according to sources close to him, and reportedly rejected an offer to return to his college alma mater, Minnesota, last month.

He spent nearly 10 seasons in Minnesota as both general manager and later head coach, leading the Timberwolves a 411-326 record, eight postseason appearances and the 2004 Western Conference Finals. Kevin Garnett became a perennial all-star and 2004 most valuable player while player for Saunders. Before joining the Wizards, Saunders spent three seasons in Detroit, where he guided the Pistons to the Eastern Conference Finals three times.

Saunders arrived in Washington with the seventh-best winning percentage among active coaches but never came close to having any success after joining the organization. His first season was marred by poor chemistry and the infamous gun scandal, then the Wizards began a rebuilding effort that never went anywhere.

Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld fired Saunders after the team got off to a 2-15 start in the lockout-shortened season. Saunders’s replacement, Randy Wittman, has gone 47-84 since taking over the Wizards.

Kahn has been the Timberwolves’ general manager since May 2009. He made many missteps, such as drafting Jonny Flynn and trading away Ty Lawson in the same draft, but his most successful move involved shipping Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards for the right to draft Ricky Rubio with the fifth overall pick.  Minnesota has gone 89-223 under Kahn’s leadership.

Saunders, 58, is reportedly negotiating a five-year deal with Minnesota, where he maintains a solid relationship with owner Glen Taylor.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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Michael Lee · April 25, 2013

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