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Sam Mitchell Expected to be Named Interim Head Coach, According to Sources

The assistant coach will fill in while head coach Flip Saunders undergoes cancer treatments.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Timberwolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell is expected to be named interim head coach while Flip Saunders battles cancer.

The team first announced on Aug. 11 that Saunders had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. At that time, it was reported that Saunders had already been undergoing treatment for eight weeks.

Saunders said the doctors had categorized the diagnosis as a "very treatable and curable form of cancer," and at that time he did not expect the illness to interrupt his coaching duties.

Although Saunders and owner Glen Taylor appeared overly optimistic, Dr. Veronika Bachanova, a University of Minnesota hematologist and oncologist, did address the situation in August. The Star Tribune posted the following:

"[Bachanova] added that Saunders should be able to continue his coaching duties, 'with some adjustments,' but needed to realize that becoming cancer-free should be the top priority -- not the demands of coaching an NBA team. He should be 'focused on getting well and getting better.'"

That seems to be the course of action now.

Mitchell stands out as a strong choice for the interim position.

Although he has only been on the Wolves' coaching staff since June 2014, Mitchell formerly played for Minnesota and brings NBA coaching experience, as well. He served as head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2004-08, during which he led the Raptors to two playoff appearances. Mitchell also held assistant coaching positions with New Jersey (2010-11) and Milwaukee (2002-04).

As a player, Mitchell spent 10 seasons with the Timberwolves and seven under the direction of Saunders. Mitchell played in 757 games during his career, averaging 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

During Saunders' absence, Mitchell will bring plenty of experience and insight to the roster for both the veteran players and the fresh faces.