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Saunders returns as head coach of struggling Timberwolves

(Reuters) - The Minnesota Timberwolves said on Friday Flip Saunders will return for a second stint as the team's head coach, calling him a stabilizing force that can breathe life into a franchise that has not made the playoffs in 10 years.

Saunders, who was already serving as the team's president of basketball operations, fills a role that became available after Rick Adelman retired from coaching in April.

"After an exhaustive process and several thorough discussions with Flip, we came to the conclusion that he was the stabilizing force needed to lead our team," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said in a statement.

"Flip led us to our most successful seasons; he knows what it takes to win in the NBA as his track record speaks for itself."

As head coach of the Timberwolves from 1995-96 to 2004-05, Saunders led the club to eight consecutive playoff appearances and a Western Conference-best and franchise-best 58-24 record in 2003-04 - a season that concluded with a berth in the Western Conference finals.

Saunders, 59, posted a winning record in six of his eight full seasons with the Timberwolves and is team's all-time leader in wins with an overall record of 411-326.

After his successful stint with the Timberwolves, Saunders took the coaching reins in Detroit where he led the Pistons to three consecutive Central Division crowns from 2005 to 2008.

He most recently spent two-plus seasons as head coach of the Washington Wizards, but was fired in early 2012. He returned to the Timberwolves the following year as president of basketball operations.

"In talking to Glen, we came to the decision that this outcome would be the best for our franchise," Saunders said. "I will work tirelessly to bring back the success our franchise experienced in the late '90s to early 2000s."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Gene Cherry)