11.19.2015

Saunders Reunited with KG in Boston



June 7, 2012

Two weeks ago, the Washington Times published an article on former Timberwolves coach FlipSaunders' involvement with the Boston Celtics coaching staff during the playoffs. Celticscoach Doc Rivers brought in Saunders as an adviser for the team's postseason run, which would move into the NBA Finals if the Celtics can defeat Miami on Thursday night.



The former Gophers player and assistant coach told the Times:

"Me and Doc, we've known each other a long time. ... He asked me to come in and just kind of be another set of eyes. I watch games and give him perspective on what I see [the Celtics] doing, and what I see the other team doing, and give him an idea of what I would do. He's given me a great opportunity." 

Saunders has enjoyed his reunion with former Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett, who is having a tremendous postseason for Boston. Garnett is averaging 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, including a team-high 26 points in Boston's 94-90 Game Five victory Tuesday.

A headline in Wednesday's Boston Globe read "Garnett as Good as Ever," and you can giveSaunders a lot of credit for developing Garnett. The 14-time NBA All-Star kept his good relationship with Saunders even after the coach was fired by the Wolves and later resurfaced in Detroit and Washington.

"The biggest thing is that it's nice to see him playing at the level he is playing," Saunders said about Garnett. "For me, it is nice to be back in a situation where it's how it was 10 years ago in seeing how he acts and how he prepares. I told Kevin, 'It's like being a proud father,' just to see how he's progressed."

Saunders also recently spoke about how pleased he was that the Wizards have decided to retain former Timberwolves head coach Randy Wittman for next season. Saunders hired Wittman as an assistant at Washington and also hired several of the assistant coaches who will remain on the staff.

One of those coaches is Flip's son, Ryan, who worked under Tubby Smith and the Gophers before joining his father in Washington.

Firing hurt Wolves

If you look back and try to track down when the Timberwolves went in the tank, it was the day in 2005 when Saunders was fired.

I've had my share of predictions come true, maybe more than have been inaccurate. But on the day Saunders was fired, local sports nut Marty Davis and a group of his friends and myself were busing back from Ames, Iowa, where we had gone to watch Bob Knight's then-Texas Tech team play at Iowa State.

The surprising news broke on the bus radio that Saunders was fired. I said then that Joe Smith's illegal contract and the four No. 1 draft choices the Wolves lost hurt the team but the firing of Saunders will hurt them more.

Saunders remains the winningest coach in Timberwolves history, posting a .558 winning percentage over 10 seasons with the club. Since he's left, the team hasn't posted a winning record in any season. (The Wolves did have a winning record in 2004-05, the season he was fired, going 44-38 with Kevin McHale finishing the final 31 games of the season, going 19-12 as head coach.) They've gone 169-383 (.306) since that season.

After the Wolves made it to the Western Conference finals in 2003-04, the rumor was thatSaunders was fired during the following season because he had lost control of the team.

Before Saunders took the Wizards' rebuilding job, he had a record of 587-396 with 11 playoff appearances in his 16-year career.

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