University of Minnesota alumnus Flip Saunders (B.S.B. ’83), whose name was synonymous with basketball in Minnesota, died from complications of Hodgkin’s lymphoma on October 18 at age 60. At the time of his death he was head coach and president of the National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Timberwolves. His passing left his many friends and admirers on campus and throughout the nation reeling.
Saunders was a fixture in Gopher basketball after arriving on campus from his native Ohio in 1974. As a point guard from 1974 to 1977, he lit up Williams Arena, starting in all but two games during that span. “He was the guy that made the team go,” said former Minnesota head coach Jim Dutcher. “He played that point guard spot where we didn’t have a backup. He wasn’t our best player, but he was our most valuable player, the one guy we couldn’t do without.” Saunders went on to a coaching career in college and professional basketball that spanned five decades and included head coaching stops in the Continental Basketball Association as well as the NBA’s Detroit and Washington teams, in addition to the Timberwolves. Saunders returned to Williams Arena as an assistant coach from 1981 to 1986, playing a role in the Gophers’ 1982 Big Ten championship season.
Saunders is survived by his wife, Debbie, and four children, all of them alumni: Ryan (B.S. ’08), Mindy (B.A. ’10), Rachel (B.A. ’14), and Kimberly (B.S. ’14).
Saunders Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE