If it was Sunday morning in the Saunders household and the phone was ringing at 6 a.m., it was usually only one person doing the calling: Sid Hartman.
“He was just looking for the scoop at the house,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said with a laugh Monday. “He didn’t care who was on the other line. He was going to find a way to get that scoop.”
Saunders has fond memories of the relationships he and his late father Flip had with Hartman, the decadeslong Star Tribune columnist who died Sunday at 100.
Saunders said his first memory of meeting Hartman came when he was nine, just after the Timberwolves had hired Flip. The Saunders family and Hartman went for a ride on Hartman’s boat on the Saint Croix River.
“You’d go over to his house, and I’m picturing it right now, that house, it felt like something out of a movie and you see all those pictures of him shaking hands with so many incredible people,” Saunders said. “You felt like you were in the presence of a movie star, in a way. You knew he was a celebrity. He was more than that.”
He was more than that to the Saunders family, as well. Hartman was a part of the family, Saunders said, and he said he wasn’t throwing that term around lightly.
“Sid is family because it’s not always perfect with family, but you know that at the end of the day there’s so much love there because there’s so much trust, so much integrity and there’s so much honesty that even if there is a disagreement, there’s unconditional love,” Saunders said. “That’s what Sid was to our family and what our family feels about Sid and his family.”
Saunders said after he got the head coaching job with the Wolves, he and Hartman had a special moment.
“He put his arm around me and in his own way just said how proud my father would’ve been on that day,” Saunders said. “For somebody who was as close to my dad as Sid was, that meant a lot to me.”
Saunders marveled at how Hartman was still doing his job regularly even as he passed 100, and one constant that never changed with Hartman, Saunders said, was how he approached his dealings with his sources. One lasting impact Hartman will leave with Saunders is “the art of relationships.”
“How relationship building is not transactional. It’s genuine,” Saunders said. “No matter what you felt that with Sid and even if he wasn’t happy with you for not giving him the scoop, you knew that you would be able to navigate through that because of the relationship that was built. I think that’s just a big credit to Sid and who he was and how he lived his life. …”
“He’s more than a close personal friend. He is and will continue to be family.”