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Stephon Marbury posts touching tribute to Flip Saunders, his 'father figure'

The former Timberwolves point guard got emotional in an Instagram message following Saunders' passing.

My heart and all of my love goes out to Flip Saunders Family as your leader leaves this earth in the flesh. His spirit lives in the present as we speak. In 1996 Flip became a father figure and my first #NBA coach. Wow how fast time blows by. Our conversations were so meaningful in ways that helped me understand the game of life by explaining the game of basketball. Your kind soul and loving ways helped me understand how to play the most important position in the sport of basketball. You gave me not only the chance to perform at a high level but a chance to communicate my thoughts on the game. You taught me how to play the pick and roll but you also taught me how to pick up and roll with the good and bad in the life. As a rookie we had so many conversations in such a short time period. You said "The point guard has to be the extension to the coach" These words lived inside of me as I've had my share of ups and downs with coaches. I guess when I left you I went on a journey to end up with a similar coach 7,000 miles away. I thank you for giving me my foundation in how to play the professional way. I thank you for giving me unconditional love as if I was your son when I was so young. It was so needed as KG and I needed all of it to get where we are now. What an impact you've had on so many humans on earth. What a father you've been to your children as I can remember Ryan aka RyeKnow when he was a little boy. We will miss you as a piece of your children's hearts have been taken but we will celebrate you forever. Thank God that love is the most powerful thing to give and receive. The love from all will be shared to help the healing process from the pain of your flesh not being present. I know you will RIP because you did all of what you did on earth in your lifeline. I say #FlipForever as we all grow from your teachings and messages. I LOVE YOU and I'll miss you until we meet again. #LoveisLove P.S As for your amazing Wife Debbie and girls Mindy, Rachel, and Kimberly thank you for sharing your dad with all the people who's lives your dad touched. I can feel your pain because I know your love for your dad. I pray for peace in your heart.

A photo posted by Stephon X. Marbury (@starburymarbury) on

On Sunday Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and head coach Flip Saunders passed away at the age of 60, just four months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Stephon Marbury, who spent three seasons playing for Saunders, posted a tribute to his former coach on Sunday.

"My heart and all of my love goes out to Flip Saunders. Family as your leader leaves this earth in the flesh," Marbury wrote on his Instagram page. "His spirit lives in the present as we speak."

Saunders was a basketball lifer. He played for the University of Minnesota in the early 70s and began his coaching career in 1977. He spent nearly 20 years working at the college level, and in the Continental Basketball Association, before being hired as Timberwolves GM in 1995. That year he took over as head coach, and remained in that position for 10 years, before being fired in 2005.

After that Saunders had stints in Detroit and Washington, and a pitstop at ESPN, until he was rehired by Minnesota in June 2014.

During his first stint with the Timberwolves, Saunders traded the draft rights of Ray Allen, the No. 5 overall pick in the 1996 draft, to the Bucks in exchange for Stephon Marbury, who Milwaukee had selected one pick earlier.

"In 1996 Flip became a father figure and my first #NBA coach," added Marbury in his tribute. "Wow how fast time blows by. Our conversations were so meaningful in ways that helped me understand the game of life by explaining the game of basketball. Your kind soul and loving ways helped me understand how to play the most important position in the sport of basketball. You gave me not only the chance to perform at a high level but a chance to communicate my thoughts on the game. You taught me how to play the pick and roll but you also taught me how to pick up and roll with the good and bad in the life. As a rookie we had so many conversations in such a short time period. You said 'The point guard has to be the extension to the coach' These words lived inside of me as I've had my share of ups and downs with coaches."

Marbury spent three seasons in Minnesota before asking to be traded prior to the 1999 season. Reports at the time were that Marbury wanted to be closer to his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., and that he and Timberwolves star forward Kevin Garnett (who also posted a tribute to Saunders on Sunday) didn't get along, despite leading Minnesota to the playoffs in 1997 and 1998. The Timberwolves eventually acquiesced and sent Marbury to the New Jersey Nets in a three-team trade that netted then Sam Cassell.

"I hope years from now," Saunders was fond of saying, according to Steve Aschburner's beautiful obituary of Saunders, "KG, Steph and I aren't sitting around a table at All-Star Weekend saying, 'We really screwed up.' "

Yet, as evidenced from his tribute on Sunday, Marbury now looks fondly upon the three years he spent playing for Saunders.

Saunders went on to lead Minnesota to the conference finals in 2004, and later on the Pistons to three consecutive conference finals from 2006 to 2008. He won 654 games in his career.