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Wizards hire Flip Saunders to be head coach


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WASHINGTON -- Flip Saunders has agreed to become the new coach of the Washington Wizards, with an announcement expected next week, according to an NBA executive.

Owner Abe Pollin has approved the hiring of Saunders, the choice of president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld to succeed interim coach Ed Tapscott, the executive told the Associated Press.

The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because the season has not ended and the Wizards are not yet prepared to make a formal announcement.

The announcement isn't expected until next week because the Wizards' season ends Wednesday, and Grunfeld will be out of town for the NBA Board of Governors meetings Thursday and Friday.

Saunders will be taking over the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards are 19-62 after Monday night's home loss to Toronto and need to win their final game at Boston to avoid matching the franchise mark for worst record over an 82-game season.

Saunders has coached for 13 NBA seasons, 10 with Minnesota and three with Detroit, with a career record of 587-396. Eleven of those teams made the playoffs, and he led the Pistons to three consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2006 to 2008.

The failure to reach the NBA Finals with Detroit cost Saunders his job. He was fired a year ago with one year remaining on this contract and did not coach this season. He was invited to the Wizards training camp in October as a guest coach, assisting the team during practices and meetings.

Washington began the season with Eddie Jordan, the franchise's most successful coach in decades, but he was fired after a 1-10 start and replaced by front-office employee Tapscott, who hadn't been a coach since his stint at American University in the early 1990s. The Wizards continued to struggle, largely because of injuries to three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas and center Brendan Haywood.

Arenas returned from knee surgery to make his season debut on March 28 but has played in only two games. Haywood came back from a torn wrist ligament on April 1 and has played in six games.

If the Wizards begin next season with their top players healthy -- something that hasn't happened since 2006 -- Saunders will inherit a talent-rich lineup that includes Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Arenas, Haywood and a probable high pick in this year's draft.

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WASHINGTON -- Flip Saunders has agreed to become the new coach of the Washington Wizards, with an announcement expected next week, according to an NBA executive.

Owner Abe Pollin has approved the hiring of Saunders, the choice of president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld to succeed interim coach Ed Tapscott, the executive told the Associated Press.

The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because the season has not ended and the Wizards are not yet prepared to make a formal announcement.

The announcement isn't expected until next week because the Wizards' season ends Wednesday, and Grunfeld will be out of town for the NBA Board of Governors meetings Thursday and Friday.

Saunders will be taking over the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards are 19-62 after Monday night's home loss to Toronto and need to win their final game at Boston to avoid matching the franchise mark for worst record over an 82-game season.

Saunders has coached for 13 NBA seasons, 10 with Minnesota and three with Detroit, with a career record of 587-396. Eleven of those teams made the playoffs, and he led the Pistons to three consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2006 to 2008.

The failure to reach the NBA Finals with Detroit cost Saunders his job. He was fired a year ago with one year remaining on this contract and did not coach this season. He was invited to the Wizards training camp in October as a guest coach, assisting the team during practices and meetings.

Washington began the season with Eddie Jordan, the franchise's most successful coach in decades, but he was fired after a 1-10 start and replaced by front-office employee Tapscott, who hadn't been a coach since his stint at American University in the early 1990s. The Wizards continued to struggle, largely because of injuries to three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas and center Brendan Haywood.

Arenas returned from knee surgery to make his season debut on March 28 but has played in only two games. Haywood came back from a torn wrist ligament on April 1 and has played in six games.

If the Wizards begin next season with their top players healthy -- something that hasn't happened since 2006 -- Saunders will inherit a talent-rich lineup that includes Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Arenas, Haywood and a probable high pick in this year's draft.

Good luck with that.
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