When Ryan Saunders was introduced as the official head coach of the Timberwolves in a press conference on Tuesday morning, his entire family was in attendance, but his thoughts could not help but turn toward a person who wasn’t there—his father Flip, who coached the team for ten seasons in two stints.
“Today was a day that my dad was supposed to be at and be able to watch,” Ryan Saunders told Chad Hartman of News Talk 830 WCCO during an in-studio interview. “And he had always used to tell me, 'You're going to be my retirement job, I'm going to be done coaching and working and all I'm going to do is, like you used to hitch a ride on the team plane and just come enjoy the road trip—that's what 'I'm going to do. I'm just going to sit in the sit in the front row and, and just do nothing basically know and just observe.'
Flip Saunder led the Timberwolves to their first-ever playoff appearance and the Western Conference Finals in 2004. Both father and son played college basketball for the University of Minnesota. The elder Saunders passed away in 2015 after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Saunders coached the final 42-games of the 2018-19 season, and despite a 17-25 record, developed a reputation as a communicative leader, earning the respect and trust of the players, including franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns.
He was sure his father would of been proud to see his son take the job he held for so long.
"I wish he was here, but I know that he's happy with today. Happy that my first head coaching job, full time head coaching job, is here in Minnesota, a place he loved so much. And he's happy that I'm around the people that mean meant a lot to him too.”
Listen to the full interview here: