Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 most successful former Wolves head coaches

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Head coach Flip Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Head coach Flip Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves: Successful former head coaches

Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders
WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 05: Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

No. 1: Flip Saunders

  • Head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1995 to 2005
  • 427-392 record while with Wolves (.521 winning percentage)
  • Combined record of 227-200 (.532) as head coach after leaving Wolves

Have you noticed a theme throughout? A ton of Flip connections, and now the man himself finds his way onto the list at No. 1.

Yes, Saunders’ .532 winning percentage is a tick below Casey’s following his departure from Minnesota, but Flip’s back-to-back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals give him the edge.

There’s an argument to made that the struggles of Saunders’ teams in the playoffs mean that he slides in this ranking, but his he improved drastically on a 17-30 (.362) playoff record with the Wolves when he arrived in Detroit, as the Saunders-led Pistons went 30-21 (.588) over three seasons. After all, there’s some bad luck involved in making the conference finals three times in a row and never getting over the hump.

Saunders had three largely dominant seasons with the Pistons, coaching prime Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince and aging versions of Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace. He helped develop Chauncey Billups into a legitimate star as he the former Wolves guard approached his early 30s, and the Pistons won 64 games in Saunders’ first season at the helm. But they lost in six to the eventual champion, Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat.

The next year, 53 regular-season wins and a six-game ousting in the conference finals at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2007-08, Saunders’ Pistons won 59 games and lost in six again, this time to Garnett and the Boston Celtics, who went on to win the title.

After a year off, Saunders took the Washington Wizards job, which only served to tank his career win-loss record. He won 26 and 23 games with the Wizards, wading through challenges including Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young. Saunders also coached John Wall as a rookie in 2010-11 and hung on for the first 17 games of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign.

Post-Wizards, Saunders interviewed for the University of Minnesota job that eventually went to Richard Pitino and ultimately ended up back with the Timberwolves, first as president of basketball operations but ultimately as head coach following Rick Adelman’s retirement.

Saunders coached rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine to a 16-66 record in 2014-15 and drafted Karl-Anthony Towns before he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and tragically passed away in fall of 2015.

Next. Do any of the proposed playoff systems affect the Wolves?. dark

All things considered, Saunders remains the most successful head coach in Timberwolves history — both with the Wolves, and following his departure from the organization.