Flip Saunders has been battling Hodgkins lymphoma, and recent complications with the treatment have caused him to be hospitalized. In light of these recent events, Saunders is taking a full leave of absence from the team, and Associate Head Coach Sam Mitchell will take over as interim head coach.
Wolves Owner Glen Taylor spoke on the situation in a statement released by the team.
“First and foremost, my immediate concern is for the Saunders family and the health of Flip Saunders. Our priority 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.”
In addition to Mitchell’s new position, general manager Milt Newton will take on a larger role in basketball operations, a department which Saunders also oversees.
In terms of what this means on the court, at least for the upcoming season, there really shouldn’t be much of an impact. This team isn’t going to win now anyway, and considering Mitchell knows the system and will likely continue to run it, there’s little he could do to throw off Saunders’ plan. Mitchell coached the Raptors in the mid-’00s, and despite winning coach of the year in 2007, was rather underwhelming with his 156-189 record. Some say that Mitchell’s lack of ability to make in-game adjustments is what really hurt the Raptors in their losing seasons, including one especially dreadful performance where Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points in one game. Still, even with that considered, this is another rebuilding year in Minnesota, and that should continue until Saunders’ health improves.