Zierdan resigns as Lynx coach

With the start of the WNBA season only days away, Don Zierden resigned to return to the NBA as an assistant coach under Flip Saunders, a role he has held in the past.

Don Zierden
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Don Zierden, the coach of the Lynx for the past two seasons, resigned on Tuesday, four days before the team's season opener.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Lynx coach Don Zierden resigned Tuesday, four days before the WNBA team's season opener.

According to a person familiar with the situation, Zierden will join the coaching staff of the NBA's Washington Wizards and work with new Wizards coach Flip Saunders a third time. Zierden worked under Saunders for five seasons when Saunders coached the Timberwolves and for the 2005-06 season when Saunders led the Detroit Pistons. Zierden coached the Lynx the past two seasons.

Attempts to reach Zierden and Saunders on Tuesday night were unsuccessful. The Lynx have scheduled a news conference today at Target Center to introduce their new coach.

Zierden, who also serves as a radio analyst for Gophers men's basketball, ran his final Lynx practice Tuesday evening and then told the players afterward of his decision to leave. His personal items are already gone from his office and he is not expected to be at the news conference, the person familiar with the situation said.

On media day in mid-May, two days before training camp opened, Zierden was asked about rumors he might join Saunders. He said he was coach of the Lynx and did not want to comment on speculation.

Tuesday afternoon, Zierden was seen at Target Center talking to Saunders and Wizards assistant Randy Wittman, another former Wolves head coach. The two were there to watch NBA draft prospects work out at the Wolves practice facility.

If Lynx management decides to promote a member of Zierden's staff, perhaps on an interim basis for this season, the choices are: Jennifer Gillom, a second-year assistant who was a WNBA star a decade ago; Wolves TV analyst Jim Petersen, a first-year assistant who played for the Gophers and in the NBA; and Ed Prohofsky, a third-year assistant with more than 50 years of coaching experience, from high school to the Timberwolves.

The fifth coach in Lynx history, Zierden went 26-42 in his two seasons, missing the WNBA playoffs both years. The Lynx open their 11th season on Saturday at home against Chicago.

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Don Zierden