Minnesota Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders announced earlier this summer that he’s battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, although he was expected to continue in his duties as head coach. But now, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski says Saunders will take a temporary leave of absence, leaving assistant Sam Mitchell to take over as interim head coach.
The Timberwolves officially announced the news on Friday, saying there have been some complications from his treatments. In addition to Mitchell taking over as interim head coach, general manager Milt Newton will take on more day-to-day responsibilities in basketball operations.
Saunders is hoping to return to the sidelines at some point this upcoming season, but it’ll likely be months before that has a chance of happening, and Mitchell taking over the interim duties will give the longtime headmaster time to focus on his health. Mitchell racked up a 156-189 head coaching record with the Toronto Raptors from 2004-08.
Saunders has spent most of his NBA coaching career in Minnesota, returning to the Wolves’ bench last season for a second stint with the team. Minnesota struggled last year due to a litany of injuries, finishing with the worst record and earning the No. 1 pick in the draft, which became Karl-Anthony Towns.
With a solid mix of youngsters and veterans, the Wolves stand to make a major improvement in 2015-16, although a playoff spot is a major long shot in the loaded Western Conference.