By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Since Norwood Teague and the University of Minnesota began their coaching search for a new basketball coach back on March 25th, they have been sure to remain tight lipped about which candidates they may have talked to and to whom they had formally offered the job. Friday, former Timberwolves head coach and rumored candidate for the Gophers job, Flip Saunders joined KFAN radio and Dan Barreiro and confirmed that he was indeed approached by the University.
"Yes I was offered the job," Saunders said. "And I did turn them down."
Saunders was thought all along to have been the Gophers backup plan after their attempts at wrangling Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens had fallen through. Once thought of as a sure thing if the Gophers came knocking, something went wrong during the University's conversations with Saunders and while Flip was initially interested in the position, he was eventually pushed away.
"It wasn't one thing, it was a combination of things," Saunders told Barreiro. "When you've won over 1,000 games and you've been to four conference finals, you pretty much have an idea of how you feel and what you think you need to have in order to have success. And I just felt that at the time there just wasn't the right match [with the University of Minnesota]."
Initial reports pointed towards the Gophers unwillingness to give full reign to Saunders when it came to developing his coaching staff and administrative team, including some sort of assumed inclusion of his son Ryan Saunders on the coaching staff. While Flip would not confirm these allegations specifically, in a round about way he left you wandering down that very same path.
"I had not been in the business of college for a long time," Flip explained. "When it came down to it, I always felt, as a coach, you need to be able to put the people you need in what roles they are, whatever roles they may be. That's just how it's operated in every job that I've taken."
Saunders went on to explain that he was worried that the University of Minnesota may be developing a track record of getting too involved in coaching searches, referencing the Jimmy Williams debacle earlier during the Tubby Smith era.
No matter the reason, the fit was not right for Flip Saunders and the Gophers right now. The University hired Richard Pitino, and Saunders believe that with that hire, they may be going down a more favorable path for their long term desires.
"I've moved on, of course they've moved," Saunders said. "I really believe in talking to them and what they were looking for, that the direction that they ended up and who they got, no matter how they got there, is probably positive for them..."
"I believe [Richard Pitino has] got a good pedigree," Saunders continued. "I've always believed that coaches kids are under so much scrutiny when they're growing up that they almost become over workers in what they do and they over prepare because they know that they are under so much scrutiny by everybody."
The situation may not have been right for Flip Saunders and the Golden Gophers to unite this time around, but he's keeping the door open (and keeping his season tickets) in hopes that there may, someday in the future, be a perfect opportunity for him to slip back in with the Golden Gophers and coach his alma mater to success.
Aj Mansour covers the Twins, Vikings, & Gopher Football for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions on this post or others in the designated section below and follow him on Twitter at @AjKFAN.