Flip Saunders won’t be back with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season as he continues to battle cancer, team owner Glen Taylor said Friday.
The news comes just five days before the Timberwolves open the regular season against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Not this year,” Taylor said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I just think his illness, I mean, it’s serious. At this point, if he came back I still think he’d have a hard time to recover all his energy and all that because he has been in the hospital for a long time.”
Saunders announced in August that he was being treated for Hodgkin lymphoma. Doctors considered it “very treatable and curable,” and Saunders at the time said he planned to remain the Timberwolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations.
However, he was hospitalized following a setback in September, and Minnesota named Sam Mitchell its interim coach and said Milt Newton would expand his responsibilities as general manager.
“We haven’t put anything on hold,” Taylor said, according to the Star Tribune. “Milt’s handling it just the way I’d expect him to. He tells me what he thinks, and we talk about things, just the same as I did with Flip. Milt’s just stepped in. Sam has to be his own coach. He won’t do things exactly as Flip does, and I wouldn’t expect him to.”
Saunders, 60, also is a part-owner of the Timberwolves. Taylor, during a dinner at his home earlier this month, told players about Saunders’ condition and his influence on the team.
“I don’t care how old you get or how experienced you get, these friendships that are in your lives are so important,” Taylor said. “They do affect your heart and your mind on a daily basis.”