In 2013, Flip Saunders knew he was undertaking an uphill battle when he became team president of the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, yet he has managed to build a highly talented nucleus of young players. On Tuesday, he announced that he has yet another battle to fight, as he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and has been undergoing treatment the last two months. What is remarkable is that he has remained in his position as president and head coach of the organization, and has overseen all offseason transactions, even while undergoing treatment.

“I am attacking this with the same passion I do everything in my life, knowing this is a serious issue,” he said in a statement issued by the team. “I also know that God has prepared me to fight this battle.”

While undergoing treatment, Saunders still oversaw all draft preparations and workouts, drafted Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall pick, and later traded for Tyus Jones in a draft day deal. His other offseason moves included resigning T’Wolves legend Kevin Garnett, Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica, and veterans Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince to provide leadership to his team’s young core. He didn’t attend the Las Vegas Summer League but has remained engaged and at the team’s new practice facility throughout the summer. Doctors have encouraged him to keep up with his daily business.

“Flip has kept me apprised of his cancer diagnosis and treatment,” owner Glen Taylor said. “He has my support as well as my thoughts and prayers for him and his family.”

As team president, head coach and a minority owner, Saunders has carved out a nearly unprecedented amount of power within the organization. His influence can be seen from the construction of the roster, the return of Garnett and the drum line occasionally used during pregame introductions. He also navigated the franchise through last year’s Kevin Love trade, which added former first round picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Benett to an impressive collection of young talent that includes Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Gorgui Dieng, Nikola Pekovic, and Towns, Jones, and Bjelica.

He will no doubt lean on his coaching staff — Sam Mitchell, Sidney Lowe, Ryan Saunders (Flip’s son) and David Adelman — as well as a front-office team that includes general manager Milt Newton.
Saunders started informing friends about the diagnosis a few weeks ago and has since come to peace with the path ahead. He remained confident that he will be ready for training camp in October and healthy enough to handle the grind of the 82-game season that awaits.

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