MINNEAPOLIS -- Flip Saunders is staying with the Minnesota Timberwolves for reasons the Portland Trail Blazers could not match.
After being courted by the Trail Blazers, the Minnesota coach agreed to a contract extension that adds two years to his existing pact and reportedly raises the total value to $20 million over five seasons.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor declined to give a figure for the extension on Wednesday but said it was not less than the $20 million reported by the Star Tribune. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported that Saunders is guaranteed $25 million. The Trail Blazers reportedly offered $30 million for five years.
"A counter-offer wouldn't have mattered," Saunders said. "My decision had to do with fulfilling dreams and goals and the people I work with and our love for the state of Minnesota. They couldn't counter-offer that."
Saunders said he couldn't imagine coaching a team without Kevin Garnett and that he has unfulfilled goals in Minnesota.
Saunders has led the Timberwolves to the playoffs in each of his five full seasons. But the team hasn't made it past the first round and faces a difficult future; part of the NBA's punishment for the illegal contract with Joe Smith was stripping the team of four of its next five first-round draft picks.
"I've never backed away from a challenge," Saunders said. "When I hear that we haven't advanced in five years, that ignites a fire in me. I didn't want to leave and feel unfulfilled down the road.
"I don't think we're as far away as people think. You look at how young we are, there's still a great deal of opportunity for growth. I'm excited about our situation here. I'm more excited than I was before."
Taylor said he wasn't worried that Saunders would leave and said he didn't change an offer that already had been on the table. The deal was signed Tuesday.
"Matter of fact, I feel better that he's had the chance to look around and has decided to stay here," he said. "I presumed that would be the result anyway, with our relationship."
Portland is seeking a replacement for Mike Dunleavy, who was fired after the Blazers were swept in the first round of playoffs by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers also had asked permission to talk to Saunders, though Saunders said his discussions with them were much less serious than those with the Trail Blazers. The Cavaliers introduced John Lucas as their coach on Tuesday.
Saunders is the winningest coach in the Timberwolves' 11-year history, with a 227-213 record.
"There's nothing wrong with being a Jerry Sloan or Rudy Tomjanovich," Saunders said, referring to the longtime coaches of the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. "I'd been here six years and decided I wanted to be here longer."
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