Report: Flip Saunders unlikely to return to Timberwolves this season

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One of the worst NBA developments of the summer came when Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and president Flip Saunders was diagnosed with Hodkin’s lymphoma, which ultimately caused him to step away from the team while he undergoes treatment. Sam Mitchell will coach the team in his absence, while Milt Newton will handle GM duties. There hasn’t been much in the way of updates about his status since the announcement in September. In a web chat with readers on Thursday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda relays what he knows about Saunders’ health, and it’s not exactly encouraging.

Here’s what Zgoda said:

There’s no question things have changed dramatically since the team announced his diagnosis in August, back when it quoted his doctors saying the cancer was very treatable and curable. Since then there have been changes to the way his body handled the chemotherapy (and maybe how much cancer they’ve found) that have made it life threatening. Everyone involved has gone radio silent because of the family’s request for privacy and federal patient-privacy laws, etc., but between the complete silence, the lack of people visiting as far as I can tell apart from his immediate family and very inner circle while he remains hospitalized here in Minneapolis and the things I’m hearing second-hand, well, none of it is good. I’ll just say this, and this is just my own opinion, if he pulls through this: I doubt very much he’s back this year, it’s probably unlikely he coaches again just because of the stress inherent doing both those jobs and I think there’s a pretty good chance he doesn’t return full time to either job. As far as the franchise goes, that will put them in a holding pattern for some time. I can’t see Glen Taylor allowing Milt Newton and Sam to make a major decision until they know more about Flip’s future and Glen decides who will run his team for the long term. I wouldn’t assume it’ll be Milt and Sam going forward, that’s just for the short term until things become clearer.

Forget the implications for the Timberwolves franchise of this uncertainty — that stuff is secondary. The most important thing is Saunders’ health, which doesn’t seem like it’s in a great place right now. Hopefully, he’s able to turn things around and beat the disease.