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Farewell to a great coach and great person

Phil “Flip” Saunders, president, part owner and coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has passed away at age 60. Saunders was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August; he was hospitalized following a setback in September.

Saunders is the winningest and most successful coach in franchise history. The team announced just Friday that Saunders would miss the entire 2015-16season. He was hired as Timberwolves head coach in 1996 and led the team toeight straight playoff appearances. He also coached successfully with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards.

“It is with tremendous difficulty and deep sadness that the Timberwolves acknowledge the passing of our President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Flip Saunders. Flip was a symbol of strength, compassion and dignity for our organization,” said Glen Taylor.

Farewell to a great coach

“The NBA family is mourning today over the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Flip Saunders,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Flip’s untimely passing has left a gaping hole in the fabric of our league. Flip was a beloved figure around the NBA, nowhere more so than in Minnesota, demonstrating a genuine and consistent passion for his players, his team and the game.”

Saunders was named head coach on June 6, 2014 after he returned to the organization on May 3, 2013 as the team’s president of basketball operations. Saunders has laid the foundation for a culture change with the Timberwolves. When this organization won before, it was because he led the way.

Farewell to a great coach and great person

In 2003-2004, Saunders led the Timberwolves to a Western Conference-best and franchise-best 58-24 record; the team reached the Western Conference Finals. His career NBA record of 654-592 is the best in franchise history.

Saunders ranks 20th on the NBA all-time coaching wins chart, and his .525 winning percentage is 16th among all NBA coaches who have coached more than 1,110 games. Saunders had seven 50-win seasons and led his teams to four Conference Finals in 11 post-season appearances. He is one of 10 coaches to have coached in both the Western and Eastern Conference Finals.

Saunders was one of the most consistent coaches I have ever been around. His teams played smart and hard for him. Saunders was also a Gopher and played on one of the Gophers’ all-time best teams.

Farewell to a great coach flip mn

His teammates included Michael Thompson, Ray Williams and Kevin McHale. Twice he coached in the NBA All-Star game, and the NBA coaches will honor him this season by wearing lapel pins honoring his memory.

I had a great relationship with Flip. He was not only a great coach but a great person. Iremember the 35W bridge collapse years ago when he shared with me how he just missed getting caught in the disaster.

He will always receive credit for the job he did in developing Kevin Garnett from high school kid to Big Ticket to NBA Superstar and MVP. The work that Saunders has put in place for the future of this franchise will pay dividends for years to come. The team is being coached by two of his ex-players, Sam Mitchell and SidneyLowe.

Our prayers are for Saunders’ wife Debbie, their four children, and the Timberwolves organization.

Vikings survive 16-10 over Kansas City

This was a hard-fought battle that took all of 60 minutes for the Vikings to prevail. They improved to 3-2 on the season after surviving the upset-minded Chiefs 16-10 Sunday at TCF Stadium.

Kansas City fought hard to avoid losing their fifth-straight game. The Vikings again are chasing the 6-0 Green Bay Packers.

vikings  vs  Kansas City final score (16-10)
vikings  vs  Kansas City (16-10)
Kansas City loaded the box on defense to contain Adrian Peterson. Many times they had six to nine players trying to contain Peterson. But the Vikings refuse to give up on the running game despite marginal success. They ran 35 times total Sunday for just 84 yards and an average of just 2.4 yards per carry. The Vikings were second in the NFL, averaging 136 yards per game.

Peterson was held to just 60 hard-fought yards on 23 carries in the game. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for 249 yards and a touchdown and threw two interceptions.

The Vikings get few style points for the victory. They led 13-0 going into the fourth quarter, and the Chiefs cut the margin to just three points. Kicker Blair Walsh made three field goals in the win.
vikings  vs  Kansas City
vikings vs kansas city
The Vikings defense was strong throughout, forcing turnovers and turning the Chiefs away. In the fourth quarter, on fourth and one at the seven yard line, the Chiefs were driving for a score and got stuffed and fumbled.

Vikings star defensive end Everson Griffen missed the game because of illness. The league will follow up with an investigation because he was not on any injury report during the week.

The Vikings, now 3-2, travel to Detroit next week. The next three games are at Detroit, at Chicago, and home to St. Louis.

The Vikings have won six straight games outside at TCF Stadium. Remember, this is the final season of Vikings football outside. U.S Bank Stadium is 75 percent completed and the Vikings begin play inside in 2016.

Broncos prevail 23-20 over Vikings

The Vikings’ 2015 season so far has been incomplete: solid at home and indifferent on the road. At 2-2, theVikings get to regroup and figure out how they can take their show on the road and break through.

The Vikings lost 20-3 at San Francisco on Monday Night Football September 14. The Vikings rebounded for back to back 26-16 and 31-14 victories over Detroit and San Diego at home. Sunday the Vikings had a chance to get a big first road win at Denver. The game was tight — in fact, it was tied 20-20 in the fourth quarter. The team with the better defense, Denver, won it.

The Broncos’ number-one-rated defense sacked Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seven times and held Adrian Peterson in check, which is under 100 yards rushing. Peterson was held to 81 yards but did bust a 48-yard touchdown run that cut Denver’s lead to 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Peterson has 17 career touchdown runs of 40 yards or more. Only Hall of Famer Barry Sanders has more with 20.

The Broncos were able to run the football consistently with Ronnie Hillman (103 yards) and C.J. Anderson (43yards). The Broncos average 6.0 yards per carry against the Vikings, who intercepted Peyton Manning twice.

The Vikings are 2-2 and now chasing the 4-0 Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. After the bye week, theVikings play host to Kansas City and St. Louis at TCF Stadium with back-to-back road games in between at Detroit and Chicago.

The Vikings are close but have not been consistent offensively on the road; they need to fix that. Averaging 12 points a game on the road is not going to cut it, or chasing the Packers will be a big uphill problem. Peterson, however, looks like himself he has been explosive with 372 yards rushing in four games.

The early season blueprint to victory is Peterson rushing for 100-plus yards and the defense wrecking havoc at opposing quarterbacks. The Vikings have shown some signs that they can be agood football team. They are 2-0 when Peterson runs for 100-plus yards — 0-2 when he does not. The problem is they have to be able to take that show on the road and dictate to their opponents. With the bye week early in the season,they have time to regroup.