Reports: Saunders turns down Gophers job

MINNEAPOLIS — Flip Saunders won’t be coaching his alma mater’s basketball team.

According to multiple reports Saturday, Saunders has turned down the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota. Saunders, who played college basketball for the Gophers, was reportedly the top candidate Friday to take over for Tubby Smith, who was fired Monday. Just one day later, though, both KFAN and reported that Saunders turned down the school’s offer.

This marks the third head coaching candidate the Gophers have crossed off their list in recent days. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg signed an extension to remain in Ames, and Shaka Smart did the same thing at Virginia Commonwealth. Minnesotans know Hoiberg from his days as both a player and front office member of the NBA’s Timberwolves, and Smart has ties to Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague from Teague’s days at VCU.

Many Minnesota fans wanted Saunders, 58, to take the job, as he has ties as both a former Gophers player and Minnesota Timberwolves coach. Saunders’ last coaching job was with the Washington Wizards, but he was fired after starting the 2011-12 season with a 2-15 record. He currently serves as an NBA analyst for ESPN.

“I’ll always bleed maroon and gold, will help (the) program any way I can,” Saunders told “I enjoy my NBA analyst job at ESPN.

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