He was a man Jon Niednagel got to know well during his tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves over a decade ago, but sadly, yesterday, Flip Saunders (#13 FCIR) passed away from cancer. Saunders, who had become “one of the most powerful men in the NBA as coach, team president and part owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves,” died on Sunday at the young age of 60 from Hodgkin lymphoma. The Timberwolves had just started practice that morning when they got word of Saunders’ death, where it was then immediately stopped and a devastated Kevin Garnett (#9 FCAR) “left the floor, walked to the parking garage at the practice facility and sat down in the spot marked for Saunders.”  Garnett posted a picture of the moment on his Facebook page with the message “Forever in my heart …”

Flip Saunders was a strategic and intelligent coach, seeking every advantage. His last words to Jon Niednagel came at a 2014 NBA camp, posing Brain Type questions pertaining to a few prospects he might soon draft for his T-wolves. Though Niednagel was obligated by another team to keep this info sequestered, he always enjoyed conversing with the ever-vigilant Flip. (Perhaps JN’s rare nickname from birth, Flip, also made Saunders of special interest?) Saunders was described by many as “gregarious and outgoing,” quite true to his Brain Type. He would also “carry around autographed cards of himself to hand out to fans, and playfully give them to media members as well with a mischievous grin on his face.”

“Flip, you were one of a kind,” wrote Kevin Love (#6 BEIR) on Instagram. “Great basketball mind and even better human being.”

Written by: Staff
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