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Timberwolves' Saunders takes leave of absence

Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders is taking a leave of absence from the team as he remains hospitalized from complications related to his cancer treatments.

Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders is taking a leave of absence from the team as he remains hospitalized from complications related to his cancer treatments.

The team announced Friday that Sam Mitchell will serve as the Timberwolves' interim coach. In Saunders' absence, general manager Milt Newton will assume an increased role in the day-to-day and strategic operations of the basketball department.

The 60-year-old Saunders announced Aug. 11 that he is being treated for the Hodgkins lymphoma. He experienced complications from his chemotherapy treatments and recently was admitted to the hospital where he remains while undergoing further testing and treatment.

"First and foremost, my immediate concern is for the Saunders family and the health of Flip," Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor said in a statement. "Our priority right now is for him to regain his strength so that he can be 100 percent when he returns to his Timberwolves duties.

"In the interim, I remain confident in the direction of our team. I have known Sam Mitchell for a number of years, back to his playing days in Minnesota. He is a former NBA Head Coach of the Year. I have no doubt he will get the most out of our players and will continue to serve as a great mentor to our young and talented players as interim head coach."

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Saunders took over as team president in 2013 and replaced the retired Rick Adelman as coach last season. The Timberwolves finished with a 16-66 record in 2014-15.

Mitchell served on Saunders' staff last year as an assistant. Before that, he was the head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2004 to 2008 and won the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2007.

The 52-year-old Mitchell has a 156-189 career record as a head coach, including two playoff appearances. Mitchell, a 13-year NBA veteran, also played for Saunders during his career.

"My thoughts right now are with Flip and the Saunders family," Mitchell said in a statement. "In the interim, I am confident that I can continue to build the foundation that Flip has established. We have a team blended with talented young guys and experienced veterans. We're excited to see how this team comes together in training camp."

Newton said, "Flip has our full support and backing as he takes time to focus on his health. In the interim, we are confident in Sam and his ability to make this a seamless transition for our players."

Saunders and his wife, Debbie, have four children, including Ryan, a Timberwolves assistant coach. The Saunders family released a statement Friday:

"A sincere thank you to the medical team that has been watching over Flip throughout this process. Since his initial diagnosis, the support we have received from everyone has been tremendous. Our focus right now is on Flip and his healing process. We are grateful for the prayers, concern, and support for Flip and our family during this time. The family would appreciate everyone continuing to respect our privacy going forward as we journey down the road ahead. We are fully committed to Flip's long-term health and look forward to him returning to his Timberwolves responsibilities at the appropriate time."

 

Related Topics: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
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