Don Zierden is known in La Crosse these days for his 'Coach Z Hoop Camp' each summer, but for four years in the 1990s, he was the right-hand man of Flip Saunders.
Saunders died Sunday due to complications from Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He was 60.
"Just extremely, extremely sad," Zierden said in a phone interview Sunday. "I wouldn't be in this business if it wasn't for Flip. I hadn't even heard of La Crosse, Wisconsin 25 years ago. He's the one that actually got me started in Tulsa but brought me to La Crosse and showed me what a great city it is."
Zierden and Saunders won a CBA championship together in 1992. They later worked together in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. To this day, Zierden remains impressed with Flip's gifted mindset for offense.
"Anything that you take from Flip you can't emulate it perfectly because he was such a good coach," Zierden said. "I remember many nights sitting in his basement working on his son Ryan's easel with Flip just admiring the way he could concoct offenses."
As of Monday night, there has been no word on if a public visitation will be held for Saunders.