Flip Saunders: The Pistons Man
Flip Saunders reached an agreement Wednesday to become the new coach of the Detroit Pistons, who wasted no time replacing Larry Brown.
The hiring of Saunders, the former coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, was confirmed by an Eastern Conference official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team planned to announce the deal at a news conference Today.Following talks between Pistons team president Joe Dumars and Saunders’ agent, the deal was finalized early Wednesday evening.
The Detroit News reported Saunders will receive a four-year contract worth between $4 million and $5 million US per season.
Saunders’ agent, Mark Termini, did not immediately return phone calls.
The appointment comes just one day after the Pistons finalized their severance agreement with Brown, who led Detroit to the NBA Finals in each of the past two seasons.
Saunders interviewed with several teams during the playoffs, nearly all of which filled their coaching vacancies with other candidates. He was due to make more than $5 million in the upcoming season from the Timberwolves, who fired him in February.
Saunders had the second-longest tenure among NBA coaches before he was fired, second to Jerry Sloan, who has coached the Utah Jazz since 1988.
In 9½ seasons with Minnesota, Saunders had a record of 411-326. He was hired on Dec. 18, 1995, taking over for Bill Blair. He helped turn one of the NBA’s most lacklustre franchises into a contender. Last season, Saunders became the eighth person in league history to coach his first 700 games with the same organization.
He led the Timberwolves to eight straight post-season appearances, but that included seven first-round exits before the breakthrough to the Western Conference finals two seasons ago.
Brown guided the Pistons to the NBA championship in 2004 and came one victory away from repeating this year. Throughout the season, Brown – who underwent hip replacement surgery that led to a problem with his bladder – insisted he would return to the Pistons if doctors deemed him healthy enough.
Team owner Bill Davidson provided some insight into the departure of the 64-year-old coach in an interview with WDIV-TV.
Brown had three years remaining on a five-year, $25 million contract, and reportedly received $5 million in his severance package.
Brown has already been contacted by New York Knicks president Isiah Thomas, who plans to meet with Brown in the coming days to gauge his interest in replacing interim coach Herb Williams.
Davidson was a key player in the departure of Brown, who spoke during the spring with the Cleveland Cavaliers about possibly becoming team president and also told the New York Post in the middle of last season that coaching the Knicks would be a “dream job.”
Asked whether Brown’s actions angered him, Davidson said: “I think a better word is peeved. You’re certainly not happy when something like that happens.”
Parting ways with Brown “was kind of easy,” Davidson said. “There was too much Larry Brown and not enough Pistons. I wasn’t happy with that. You’ve got to understand that whoever coaches the Pistons represents me. And I’m not going to give (the team and their fans) somebody that’s not a good person.”