Photography by Spacecrafting

Ryan Saunders

The Flip Saunders Legacy Fund

Flip Saunders had a peerless reputation in the NBA as well as here in the North as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. His passing in 2015 — due to complications stemming from Hodgkin lymphoma — was devastating not only to his family but also to the communities that had become family.

“My parents always said that it isn’t about what you take from the world, but what you give to the world,” says Ryan Saunders, Flip’s son and Timberwolves assistant coach.

Ryan recalls one summer when Flip gave close to 50 scholarships to help kids attend basketball camp. “A lot of pro athletes might put their name on a camp and show up at the awards ceremony,” he notes. “But this was a five-day, 9-to-5 camp, and he was there from 8 to 6, interacting with the kids. People have told me, ‘I went to your dad’s camp when I was 15, and he made me feel like I was the most important kid there.’”

When Flip passed, his family — led by Ryan’s mother, Debbie, with support from Ryan and his sisters, Mindy, Rachel and Kim — channeled their grief into the Flip Saunders Legacy Fund.

So far, the nonprofit has supported the Gorgui Dieng Project, which is building clinics in the basketball player’s hometown in Senegal. And every year, it provides jerseys and pay for referees at the Flip Saunders Shootout in Cleveland (Flip’s birthplace). The projects — and the donations — keep coming.

“He’s not here on Earth to experience these things, but his spirit lives on through this,” Ryan explains. “It helps with the healing process. Being in the community and doing some good does our family good, too.”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.