Exciting rookies, new veterans and a blueprint for success in the years to come…my first post of the season was supposed to be a happy one. Instead, I find myself in shambles with the recent news that Flip Saunders lost his fight with cancer.
It’s strange to be so broken up about a man you never met and it’s difficult to explain to someone not from Minnesota what he meant to this team and this state and why we are so palpably devastated. After all, it’s just a game, right? But you see, we catch a lot of flak for being a lousy team in a cold ass state. When people say they don’t want to live or play in this tundra and that the Timberwolves are a joke, we take it personally. Flip wanted to change all that. He wanted to make this team great and maybe he couldn’t change the weather but he could warm up the atmosphere with a winning culture.
Flip may have been from Ohio but he was an Honorary Minnesotan and a spokesperson for us and we loved him for it.
Here are my favorite, fondest memories of Flip and his tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 2004 Western Conference Finals – Otherwise known as the Zenith. This is the greatest moment inTimberwolves history, even though we actually lost. But damnit, we were close. Flip took this team to the brink and in my opinion the only thing that kept us from taking it all was Sam Cassell LITERALLY injuring himself doing the “Big Balls Dance“. I can’t think of a more Minnesotan way of losing. Flip was never pissed about it, though. He understood the mind and soul of a player and got that sometimes you just have to grab your imaginary oversized balls in a gesture of supreme joy. I just wish Cassell had done his big ball stretches beforehand.
Flip’s Diamond Store Commercials – This may sound like a joke but I’m being serious. Those diamond store commercials are usually so cheesy and gross, but when Flip was in them you felt his sincerity. Normally, having a personal jeweler for over 20 years sounds about as fun as being Ricky Rubio’s shooting coach but Flip made it feel as warm as Paul Bunyon’s bosom.
The Wiggins-Love Trade – While the Conference Finals was the franchise’s greatest moment, I think this is Flip’s personal highmark. Having the patience and balls (without any dance!) to pull off this trade without flinching is hugely underrated. If this trade was up done by David Kahn, we would have gotten a 55-year-old Sam Bowie and a free box of Icy Hots. Instead, we got the future of our team and Flip’s good decisions will live on.
Flip’s Blue Suits – Flip looked like the fanciest bell-hop in the world in those things. I am always jealous of people who can wear skinny suits, because I’m built like a pear-shaped inner tube. Flip may have worn the same suit 77% of the time but he pulled it off in style. Also, I’ve been wearing the same jeans for two weeks so I can’t talk.
Everything – Honestly, I can list a million things about Flip that I loved. The Gorgui Dieng pick, the Shabazz Muhammad-Trey Burke swap, his desire to run every front office position in the Timberwolves organization or his legendary humor and friendliness. I never had the pleasure of meeting the dude but I can say that he was truly beloved by Minnesota sports fans. He may never have gotten that NBA championship ring, but he made us feel pride in ourselves and we’ll be forever grateful for that.
Rest In Peace, Flip.