Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said Monday that Flip Saunders’ health changed over a “three- to four-day period” in early September. Saunders passed away Sunday from complications association with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the details provided by Taylor were the first on Saunders’ rapid decline.
Taylor said that “backing up seven weeks, I was talking to him and everything was, I don’t want to say fine or great, but it was what we expected. …. He was basically with everything [going on], guys coming in to practice, he was up to date on all that.”
What happened next “happened so fast,” Taylor said. “He got a fever and from that fever … within a day, all of a sudden he was in the hospital. Once he was in the hospital, his situation changed very rapidly. You take it over a three-four day period, one day he’s walking around talking to you and four days later, we have a serious condition going on.”
Taylor declined to talk about whether Saunders had contracted pneumonia, or a different infection.
“I knew how tenuous his situation was, so many things going wrong, but still you always had that hopefulness inside you that he’d turn the corner the other way, and pretty soon we’d be talking basketball with each other again,” Taylor said. “You just can’t prepare yourself for this.”
Taylor also said during an interview that Sam Mitchell, appointed as interim coach when Saunders was hospitalized, will direct the team this season. Milt Newton will have expanded duties as the team’s general manager.
“Sometimes, positives can happen,” Taylor said. “In this particular case, let’s see what these people do, let’s see what their leadership is. Going through difficult times, maybe we’ll see people bloom into what they might not have been otherwise.”
Taylor also said:
• The Wolves are likely to have a patch on their uniforms and/or warmups to honor Saunders. The team has to get league approval for uniform patches, but players are free to put their own messages on sneakers.
• Taylor said he “was certain” the team would have some sort of remembrance for Saunders before Monday’s home opener against Portland.
Lapel pin for peers
NBA Coaches Association President Rick Carlisle said the organization will honor the memory of Saunders by having league coaches wear a “Flip” lapel pin this season. Carlisle praised Saunders’ “strong voice for the profession of NBA coach.”
Talk of postponement
Newton said he talked with league officials about the possibility of postponing Wednesday’s season opener at Los Angeles, but the talks never reached a serious stage.
And so the show will go on.
“There’s no right blueprint to go through a situation like this,’’ rookie Karl-Anthony Towns said. “For us, we’re staying strong as a team, as a family, just doing everything we can to help each other through this.’’
Veterans will help
Veteran Tayshaun Prince said he signed with the Wolves this offseason as a free agent because Saunders convinced him on the mentorship role he could play to the team’s young players. Prince played three seasons for Saunders in Detroit.
“It’s becoming a lost art in this league as far as a lot of these young teams getting veteran core pieces to help out the young guys,” Prince said. “That’s what Flip really pinpointed to me, what really got me here, now it’s time for me to leave an imprint on these young guys and how to play the game the right way.’’
Prince said “it’s gonna be tough’’ for the Wolves to play Wednesday night so soon after Saunders’ death.
“But one thing I can say is we’re gonna go out there and play hard and we’re gonna play aggressive and whatever happens, happens,’’ he said. “We’re definitely in a tough spot, but we’re gonna do the best we can.”
Staff writer Dennis Brackin contributed to this report.