This was unexpected when the season ended but has seemingly become more and more likely in recent weeks.
The Wizards are “likely” going to keep Randy Wittman as coach next season, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.
That follows what Michael Lee wrote in the Washington Post late last week:
A source with knowledge of the Wizards’ thinking recently described the situation as “an ongoing process,” adding that the team has no timetable to make a decision. Wittman and his assistants are still under contract for next season, lessening the urgency. But the silence – and lack of aggressiveness in pursuing other potential candidates – has raised speculation amongst agents and rival league executives that they all will be brought back.
A person who has spoken in recent weeks to President Ernie Grunfeld said “reading between the lines” from their conversations left the impression that Wittman would be retained. The person added, however, “Hey, I could be wrong.”
Wittman was 18-31 and that included a six-game winning streak to end the season. He certainly connected with and got more out of the roster than Flip Saunders, who was let go 17 games in (2-15). But confusing better than terrible with good would be a mistake. This is a roster that needs big changes and a locker room that needs a new culture. Is that Wittman.
The key reason to think it’s Wittman is nobody has come in for interviews. The Bobcats are conducting a coaching search and have brought in every coach East of the Mississippi River for an interview — and we know about it. Same with other coaching searches. You can’t keep those all that secret. The Wizards have made no steps, which implies they aren’t taking any steps.
But hey, I could be wrong.
Keep it simple, stupid.
That is the philosophy of new Wizards interim coach Randy Wittman, who takes over for the fired Flip Saunders. He has a young team and he doesn’t want to overwhelm them. Here is a quote via CSNWashington.com.
“This isn’t brain surgery,” Wittman said. “We need to simplify things.”
Wittman was going to go with some coaching basics — no playing time based on reputation, you’re going to have to earn it. Not that any Wizards player has really earned it this season, but now play well and see your minutes increase. Play bad and it falls.
He also vows to have the Wizards playing faster. Washington is already playing at the third fastest pace in the league, but playing fast when you have John Wall — probably the fastest player with the ball in his hand in the league (Derrick Rose is in that conversation, but that’s about it) — is always smart. It’s just getting people to run and do the little things with him.
Wittman needs to try and instigate a culture change, one of professionalism, preparation and focus. Wittman’s history as a coach makes you wonder if he is the guy who can get that done. Or if with this roster it really matters who the coach is. But he gets first crack at it. And he’s keeping it simple.
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.