Flip Saunders is Smiling Down on Timberwolves Dream He Started

Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves franchise has experienced some of the most futility of any team across the entire landscape of professional sports. Years spent in the doldrums have been plentiful, since the team was founded back in 1989.

When you think about the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise, Kevin Garnett’s name may be the first to resonate. He was a generational player, and it was his leadership that sent the team to their last Western Conference Final, 20 years ago to the date, on his birthday. If it’s not KG though, then it’s a man recognized by just four letters, Flip.

Flip Saunders and KG were Minnesota Timberwolves basketball for much of two decades, and his presence still floats over the franchise, even a decade after his passing. A winning Timberwolves franchise was Flip Saunders’ dream.

Fulfilling Flip Saunders’ Minnesota Timberwolves dream

Right before he tragically passed away, Flip laid the foundation for what the Wolves have become. And nine years later, you have to believe he’s beaming down on his favorite pro basketball team.

On June 25, 2015, the recently rehired Saunders made Karl Anthony Towns the number one overall pick in that year’s NBA Draft. Back then, not only was Flip back running basketball operations in Minnesota, he had recently replaced Rick Adelman on the bench as ‘interim’ head coach (an additional job nobody was sure he would give up).

Saunders then traded for Kevin Garnett and paired a 19-year-old Towns with a now 39-year-old KG. It was time to pass the baton. Of course, the winning didn’t come right away and Saunders died not even one year after he drafted KAT, thanks to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma that took his life just months after diagnosis.

After Flip left, the Timberwolves franchise struggled to carry out his vision, and it nearly all went up in flames when Tom Thibodeau brought traded for Jimmy Butler, who tried to set Saunders dreams on fire. KAT made it through that debacle, though. Then, Gersson Rosas took over, drafted Anthony Edwards, and the roster started to improve. Finally, Tim Connelly found his way to town, traded for Rudy Gobert, and the rest is history.

Related: Karl-Anthony Towns Rose Up When Timberwolves Needed Him Most

Individual accolades are something Towns is accustomed to. He’s been to All-Star Games, won three point contests, and generally been regarded as a transformational offensive big man. Winning as a team isn’t something he’s experienced though, and looking to avoid the same fate Kevin Love experienced in Minnesota, he persisted. Given time to gel with a roster capable of playing both sides of the ball, this is the Towns that Saunders envisioned.

Anthony Edwards is the young guard with swagger and confidence that Flip would have pushed. Rudy Gobert is the battle tested veteran that Saunders could have built a defense around. Naz Reid, Jaden McDaniels, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Mike Conley, yep them two, Saunders had to be excited about this roster from his prime viewing spot above.

Now as Minnesota sets their sights on Dallas and a trip to the NBA Finals, they can do something for the first time in franchise history. Towns is coming off two of the best games he has played in his career. He stepped up when the place he has been the longest needed him most. That’s what Saunders hoped he was getting. Now we’re seeing it come to fruition. But there’s still work left to do. So, let’s finish for Flip.

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