Flip Saunders was frustrated. Diplomatic, usually, but frustrated. Considered a players coach most of his career (and more passive, not a yeller), he was brought into Washington to coach a veteran team with Caron Butler, Gilbert Areas — a team that had made the playoffs the year before.
Then in one instance of stupidity, the Wizards were quickly thrown into rebuilding mode. And Saunders was given some headstrong — read: unprofessional — young players that he admitted after Monday’s loss to the Sixers that he was having trouble getting through to.
Saunders was fired by the Wizards Tuesday. He spoke with the Washington Post Tuesday and expressed disappointment with the results in a changing situation.
“It’s disappointing never being able to finish the job. It’s always disappointing when your won-loss record isn’t there, so changes in this situation are not unusual. It happened this morning.
“I was disappointed. When I took this job, there were very much unique challenges. Usually the focus was, I believe we had the opportunity to coach a veteran team that had a chance to make a run into the playoffs. That job description changed drastically, when we experienced the gun in the locker room situation. We went from a job with a totally different challenge, to all of a sudden survival mode, then immediately after that, into a developmental situation. I felt comfortable because I’ve developed a lot of young players over my career and it’s extremely challenging to develop so many players at the same time.”
There was no development. For example, John Wall seems to have taken a step back this year, a year most people expected him to explode.
Part of that is on Saunders, but part of it is the players he had to develop — this was not a good locker room situation. There are guys who know how to prepare and win at the NBA level and some may not want to really learn. Much of this falls on GM Ernie Grunfeld, who so far has evaded much trouble from owner Ted Leonsis. But that time maybe is ending. Grunfeld has built a dysfunctional roster and had the wrong coach for the team.