Flip Saunders — the coach, president, and part-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves — died Sunday after a battle with Hodgkin lymphoma, sending waves of grief through the NBA.
The news hit the Timberwolves mid-practice Sunday, according to the Associated Press, prompting Kevin Garnett to leave the floor, walk to the team parking garage, and post a tribute from his longtime coach’s parking space.
“Forever in my heart,’’ read Garnett’s Facebook post Sunday afternoon, which received more than 100,000 likes within two and a half hours.
Saunders first took over as head coach of the Timberwolves midway through the 1995-1996 season, which was Garnett’s rookie year. Saunders and Garnett led the team to their first playoff berth in 1997, the first of eight-straight trips to the postseason.
The two stayed together until 2005, when Saunders was fired. Garnett was traded to the Celtics in the summer of 2007.
In 2013, Saunders returned to Minnesota as team president and before the 2014-2015 season, he was named head coach. Later that season, the team traded for Garnett, uniting the longtime duo, who were rumored to pair up and try to buy the Timberwolves.
Saunders was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in June. In September, the Timberwolves announced he would be taking a leave of absence from the team.
Saunders died Sunday at the age of 60.