When Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders takes his seat on the bench Saturday night to face his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, he knows it will be with his mother's blessing.
Saunders' mother Kay, 90, died early Friday morning. Saunders was on a plane headed back to Washington when he got the news.
"This morning when mom passed away, when I left her and got on the plane and got the news when I landed, so you get there and you kind of think what you're going to do, but as I told some of the players, they're like family."
Although Saunders will coach on Saturday night against the Timberwolves, he will not coach on Sunday when the Wizards travel to Detroit to face the Pistons. Saunders will return to Cleveland for the wake and funeral on Sunday.
"As my dad said when I talked to him this morning, she would want you to coach [on Saturday], especially because you're going against Minnesota."
Saunders called returning to the team on Friday "a good outlet."
"It always becomes difficult as with anybody. I think that's part of the situation, being around the team and being with the team as much as anything. That helps anyone deal with any situation, whether it's me dealing with this situation or whether it's the players dealing with it."
Saunders' mother had been on life support for nearly two months. Saunders said the family made the decision last week to remove her from life support.
"They thought she would go relatively pretty quick, 20 minutes or so because she had been on life support for almost two months, (and she) lasted almost three days," Saunders said. "My mom was tough. At the hospital, they called her 'the Miracle Grandma.'"
Saunders also referred to his mother as a huge fan of the Wizards and the NBA.
"She was an unbelievable fan," Saunders said. "If I wanted to know about the NBA, I'd call her up, because she'd watched all day. She watched NBA-TV, she knew what was going on; she knew everything about our players. I can remember earlier in the year when we lost to Orlando by one and we lost to Miami by one, she called me up and said, 'Those are wins. I'm counting those as wins.' I told her to call the league and let them know."
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