Washington Wizards hire Flip Saunders as new head coach

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has named Flip Saunders as head coach.  Per team policy, terms of the contract were not released.

The Associated Press reports that the deal was for four years and $18 million.

“We’re very proud to bring a proven winner like Flip Saunders on board as our head coach,” said Wizards Chairman Abe Pollin.  “After going through what was a very difficult season, I know our fans share in my anticipation of what we can accomplish with new leadership, a healthy roster and a renewed commitment to excellence.”

Saunders, who becomes the 22nd head coach in franchise history, owns a 587-396 (.597) record over 12-and-a-half seasons with Minnesota and Detroit.

“We clearly identified Flip as the top candidate for the job and were happy to find that our situation proved to be a good fit for him as well,” said Grunfeld.  “We were able to move quickly as a result and we’re confident that this is a major step towards putting this team back among the Eastern Conference contenders.”

Saunders achieved seven 50-win seasons, led his teams to the playoffs 11 times and reached the Conference Finals on four occasions during his tenures with the Timberwolves and Pistons.  He is one of only six coaches to be named head coach of the All-Star team in both the Eastern and Western Conferences and currently ranks seventh among active coaches in winning percentage (12th all-time) and eighth among active coaches in total wins (21st  all-time).

“There were many factors that led to this being the right situation for me, but the most intriguing was the commitment of Mr. Pollin and Ernie to win a championship,” said Saunders.  “I look forward to enjoying the great support and homecourt advantage from Wizards fans that I’ve always seen from the opposing sidelines and to making each game at Verizon Center an exciting event.”

Saunders comes to the Wizards after leading the Pistons to three straight 50-win seasons, three straight division titles and three straight appearances in the Conference Finals from 2005-06 to 2007-08.  He finished with an overall record of 176-70 (.715), the highest winning percentage for any coach in franchise history.  Saunders began his NBA coaching career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he compiled a 411-326 (.558) record from 1995-2005 and became the winningest coach in franchise history.  He guided the Timberwolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1997-2004, culminating in a trip to the 2004 Western Conference Finals.

Saunders began his professional coaching career in the Continental Basketball Association, where he won two CBA championships (1990 & 1992) and was twice named CBA Coach of the Year (1990 & 1992).  He ranks third all-time in the CBA with 253 career victories (253-137, .649) during stops with the Rapid City Thrillers (1988-89), La Crosse Catbirds (1989-94) and Sioux Falls Skyforce (1994-95).

Author: Inside Hoops

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