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Saunders returns to Timberwolves in new role

Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders reacts after a foul is called against his team in the second half of their NBA basketball game agains
Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders reacts after a foul is called against his team in the second half of their NBA basketball game agains

(Reuters) - Flip Saunders returned to the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves as president of basketball operations on Friday, eight years after he was sacked by the team as their head coach.

Saunders, who has also been head coach with the National Basketball Association's Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, was appointed on a five-year deal in place of David Kahn, who was fired on Thursday.

"I've made a lot of great decisions in my life, and a lot of things in business that have worked well," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told reporters before introducing Saunders, who has been given a minority ownership stake in the franchise.

"Occasionally I've made a wrong decision and perhaps supporting Flip leaving our organization as coach is one of those things I've done wrong.

"But in the meantime, Flip has gone out and stayed in the NBA, coached for some other teams ... I just think that he can bring that as part of his overall philosophy back to our organization and make it a better organization."

Minnesota finished the 2012-13 season fourth-last in the 15-team Western Conference after posting a 31-51 record.

They have not reached the playoffs since the 2003-04 season when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

"There's no question that there's a lot of work ahead with this team," said Saunders, 58. "And what I mean by that is that when a team has been to the lottery for eight straight years and won 31 games, you have work to do.

"So we've got to roll up our sleeves and do that, but that's what Minnesota people do. Now we have talent, we have some good young talent but they by far have not reached their potential."

Saunders will inherit a developing team that possesses an All-Star power forward in Kevin Love, a talented point guard in Spaniard Ricky Rubio and an experienced coach in Rick Adelman.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

(This story clarifies that Saunders was appointed head of basketball operations)

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