Flip Saunders Unlikely to Coach This Season Due to Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2015

FILE - This is a June 25, 2015, file photo showing Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders addressing the media during an NBA basketball news conference in Minneapolis. Saunders says he is being treated for cancer. Saunders announced Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, that he has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma. He says his doctors are calling it
Jim Mone/Associated Press

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders is reportedly unlikely to lead the team during the upcoming NBA season as he continues treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  

The latest update on Saunders' status came from Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, who noted recent signs regarding the longtime coach's health aren't promising:

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.

Zgoda also stated he's unsure if the 60-year-old coach will ever return to the sideline full time given the wide-ranging demands of the position:

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 [Mitchell] 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.

Saunders, who also serves as the team's president of basketball operations, planned to continue filling both roles when his condition was first publicly revealed in August. A source told Steve Aschburner of NBA.com he planned to attack the cancer the only way he knows how: "Being a coach, his reaction when he found out he had cancer was, 'What's the game plan?' He sees this like [basketball]—you've got to respect that opponent."

Things changed in September, however. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Saunders made the choice to step aside to focus on his health. The decision moved Sam Mitchell into the role of interim head coach for the T-Wolves.

Now, it sounds like Mitchell could fill the void for longer than initially expected. He was named NBA Coach of the Year for his work with the Toronto Raptors during the 2006-07 season and should be a stabilizing force for a young roster featuring Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, among others.

While the Timberwolves continue their preparations for the new season, which begins with a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 28, they will surely spend a lot of time thinking about Saunders and hoping for the best.

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