Former Wizards coach Flip Saunders stepped away from his duties with the Minnesota Timberwolves in September following a cancer diagnosis in August. According to a report surfacing Thursday, he is not expected back this season.
Minneapolis Star Tribune NBA writer Jerry Zgoda provided a somber update on Saunders' health condition during a web chat with readers. The team previously announced assistant Sam Mitchell would take over Saunders' head coaching duties. Milt Newton, who previously worked in the Wizards front office, is expected to handle the GM duties.
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.
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 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.
It goes without saying that Saunders' health trumps the implications for the team. Hopefully future updates provide better news.