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Posted at 2:22 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Flip Saunders to coach vs. Minnesota following mother's death

By Michael Lee

At the end of Wizards practice Friday, the players placed their hands in a circle and broke with the word, "Family!" That word probably had more meaning for the team as their leader was dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Coach Flip Saunders's 90-year-old mother, Kay, passed earlier in the morning after dealing with failing health for several months. Saunders left the team Tuesday, and missed Wednesday's loss against Golden State, to be with his mother in suburban Cleveland. But he flew back to Washington after visiting with her this morning. He received word that she had died the moment that he landed.

"You get there and you think, 'What are you going to do?' " Saunders said of his initial reaction to the news.

He went to work and ran a full practice.

"With the players, they are like family," he said. "It's a good outlet. That's part of the situation, being around the team and being with the team, as much as anything, that helps anyone deal with any situation."

Saunders said he plans to coach against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, but will leave the team afterward to attend the wake and the funeral. His father, Walter, encouraged him to keep coaching.

"My dad said, when I talked to him this morning, 'She would want you to coach, especially because you're going against Minnesota,' " said Saunders, who led the Timberwolves for nearly nine years and keeps an offseason home in Minneapolis.

Assistant Randy Wittman will coach the team against Detroit on Sunday, so that Saunders can spend a few days in Cleveland to attend the funeral and the wake. Kay Saunders was taken off life support earlier in the week, but lived for another three days.

"They called her the Miracle Grandma at the hospital," Saunders said with a smile, "but she was an unbelievable fan of the NBA. If I wanted to know more about the NBA, I called her, because she watched all day. She watched NBATV. She knew everything that was going on."

By Michael Lee  | March 4, 2011; 2:22 PM ET
Categories:  Flip Saunders  
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Next: Rashard Lewis expected to play against Minnesota despite knee pain


Sorry for your lost Flip.

Posted by: thecomedian1 | March 4, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Sincere condolences to Flip and his family.

Posted by: ivyleague | March 4, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

God bless you, Flip. You're a good son and a good man, even if your team isn't doing well.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | March 4, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I shared a similar experience when my mother passed (both in not being there for it and in sharing a love of basketball).

My sincere condolences as well to Flip and his family.

Posted by: ts35 | March 4, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Coach Saunders you must believe the world is more than we see and that your mom is in a better place. Christ said this and proved it by His resurrection. Sincere condolences.

Posted by: dandyhuffman | March 4, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

do what you need to do to pay your respects flip.

Posted by: jefferu | March 4, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I had a similar scenario visiting mom one day and having her passing shortly thereafter - as you said "what can you do." Best wishes and our condolences to you and your family Flip.

Posted by: junkmail0153 | March 4, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse


Celebrate your mother's life and never forget to be thankful for the blessing of having her be a part of your life for such a long time.

I lost my mother when I was 25.

Posted by: bozomoeman | March 4, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for your loss Flip. Mourn in your own way, don't let anybody tell you what's right or wrong..

Posted by: wewintheylose1 | March 4, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

By Michael Lee
At the end of Wizards practice Friday, the players placed their hands in a circle and broke with the word, "Family!" That word probably had more meaning for the team as their leader was dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Nice LEE. Somehow your words left me cold as a stone especially when you referenced FLIP SAUNDERS' mother as "a loved one." Nice feeling there, holier than thou one. Thanx. Hey, just business right. Nothing's obvious.

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 4, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

To FLIP, my best. A touchstone has passed for you. Keep her memory alive by being the best person you can be as an example for the world. God bless.

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 4, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Just have to say I'm sorry about the loss of your Mom, Coach Saunders. You obviously treasured and adored her, and despite her long life, I know this loss is a terrible thing. Condolences.

Posted by: mcgintyman | March 4, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to hear this. You would think that the Bullets would of just let Flip go home and stay to be with his Mom during this difficult time, instead of going back and forth and coaching these fools. The Bullets, again, drop the ball with a chance to do something good.

Posted by: jwing14 | March 4, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

From someone who has lost a parent, very sorry to hear about Flip's loss. Prayers to his family. Family 1st, everything else is secondary.

Posted by: zack5 | March 4, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Very sorry for the loss, Flip. Sounds like she was a supermom, watching the NBA till her final days. God bless.

Posted by: destewar | March 4, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you.

Posted by: tef123 | March 4, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to hear about the passing of another on of god children. I pray that the Saunders will forever be bless and continue to move forward. May god bless u Flip and other members of your family to recover :).

Wizards Fan,

Posted by: YEAwizards | March 5, 2011 3:22 AM | Report abuse


This is a very difficult time in your life. I've been through it. Stay positive and try to focus on the good times you and your mother shared.

Posted by: musicmanjr | March 5, 2011 5:39 AM | Report abuse

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