Flip Saunders returning to Timberwolves

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 3, 2013 at 3:25 pm •  Published: May 3, 2013
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There is still much work to be done. Kahn's teams went 89-223 in his four seasons, including 31-51 in his final season.

It starts with coach Rick Adelman, who missed 11 games during the season to be with his wife while she was treated for seizures. Adelman has been contemplating retirement, but Saunders said he expects him to return next season. Saunders brought up Game 7 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals when his Wolves beat Adelman's Kings to advance.

"Best time I've ever had. ... Now we're teammates and we're together," said Saunders, who has 638 career coaching victories, including 411 with the Wolves. "And I look forward to working with Rick. I don't think there's a lot of organizations that they can say that they have two coaches, or two people in their organization that have over 1,600 wins in the NBA."

Taylor said he spoke to Adelman before deciding to move on from Kahn and hire Saunders and received endorsements of both decisions.

"Rick said, 'Gee, somebody with that experience around to help me, somebody to talk to that understands? I think that would be great,'" Taylor said.

Kahn did not have a basketball background when he was hired in 2009, and he had a hard time relating to coaches and players. That shouldn't be a problem for Saunders, who now will have to adapt to working the salary cap and dealing with agents directly. He said he will work to bring more balance to a roster that is heavy on power forwards and light on shooting guards.

He'll also have to decide if the team will match any lucrative offer that restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic is expected to receive this summer and whether to keep or trade Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2011 who showed considerable improvement playing for the injured Kevin Love this season.

His biggest task may be repairing the team's relationship with Love, who feuded with Kahn last season because he was not offered the full, five-year maximum contract extension. Love can opt out of his current deal in two years.

"Hopefully Kevin knows how important he is to the organization," he said. "If he doesn't, that's something that I will definitely make a point to reach out to him, both talking to him in person and talking to him on the phone and building that relationship."

Saunders spent last season as an analyst at ESPN. He said many in Bristol, Conn., couldn't understand why he continued to live in Minnesota.

"Why? Minnesota? You can live anywhere you want to live," Saunders would hear as he looked outside to see snow falling. "I said, 'Well, you don't really understand. Unless you're from Minnesota, you really don't get it.' ... The loyalty, the passion that the people have here is what always drives me back. And that's why I'm here today. I believe that I can help Glen Taylor and this franchise reach and exceed what we've done in the past."

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