SEEN AND HEARD AT THE PALACE OF AUBURN HILLS AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - It was a homecoming weekend for Flip Saunders, who on Sunday led the Wizards against the Detroit Pistons, the team he guided to three straight Eastern Conference finals appearances.
Rather than riding to the arena on the team bus as he usually does on the road, Saunders drove here this evening after visiting some friends in the area. He planned to complete his homecoming weekend with a drive to his hometown, Cleveland. Since the Wizards have Monday off and will be on the road during the holidays, Saunders used this as the perfect opportunity to visit his father, who turns 90 on Jan. 1, and his mother, who is 89.
Saunders, who went 176-70 during three regular seasons with the Pistons, received a cool welcome back to Detroit. When the PA announcer introduced him before the game, the fans scattered across the half-filled arena didn't even utter a boo.
Once the game got going, however, a heckler sitting two rows up and close to the Wizards' bench did his best to remind Saunders of his past. Saunders ignored the first three obnoxious insults hurled his way. Then the man yelled, "Hey, Flip, you grooming Sam [Cassell]? Last first-year assistant replaced you on the bench, Michael Curry, remember?"
The coach turned and coolly replied, "How'd that work out?"
The fan - remembering Curry's 39-43 campaign, 0-4 first-round playoff exit against Cleveland and subsequent firing - sat back and didn't utter a word to Saunders the rest of the night.
"More than anything, I was thinking about how we're going to try to beat these guys tonight."
- Wizards coach Flip Saunders on his reflections during his drive to the Palace of Auburn Hills, where he faced his former team
BY THE NUMBERS
1-9 Record this season for the Wizards when they have trailed after one quarter. The Pistons led 24-19 after the first quarter Sunday.
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