A few months back when everyone was making their 2013-14 NBA season predictions, a question that was commonly asked was, “Who is going to be the first coach fired?” And I cannot recall one time when the name Randy Wittman was not one of the first guys blurted out. I was one of those guys. For a guy with a career coaching record of 147-291 (.335 winning percentage) in his three head coaching stints with Cleveland, Minnesota, and a year and a half for the Wizards, it was hard to imagine he would last long with a franchise that was so set on winning now and making the playoffs. He was going to have to find a way to win some games because Wizards management made it clear they would have no problem going another direction if the team was not producing results.
But the team is producing results and Randy Wittman’s job does not seem to be in any sort of jeopardy.
The Wizards currently boast a record of 14-15 and have won five of their last seven games. They are a prime candidate for the coveted three seed in the Eastern Conference and have the tools to end up there at season’s end.
Randy Wittman has played a role in this, whether you want to admit it or not.
This team is better than a .500 team and when they can stay healthy it will finally show. The biggest thing that will come out of this team being healthy is them deploying their current rotation Wittman has been using in the last seven games. With Nene and Bradley Beal both back from injuries, this seven-game stretch has been a pretty good indication of what this team could be when healthy as the season progresses.
The Wizards bench has scored 30 or more points in six of those seven games and the rotation Wittman has been using is a big part of the Wizards bench finally having success. He moved Nene to the bench in order to preserve his body and anchor the second unit with a knock down shooter in Martell Webster. It is has lead to the Wizards bench unit keeping leads as well as leading comebacks like they did in a big win at Detroit Monday. Many veteran starters may be upset losing their starting spot like Nene has, but he has shown no sign of sulking and has been key to the bench unit.
Which leads me to my next point.
This team plays really hard and you can just tell they enjoy playing for Wittman. If your team does not buy into you, then trying to coach is a lost cause. But through 29 games it appears the Wizards are fully bought into what Wittman is preaching.
The NBA season is extremely long and teams are going to have nights when they are not all there ready to play, but through 29 games I do not remember many instances where the Wizards just did not play hard. They have had off nights, like when only scored 78 points in a loss to Dallas Wednesday, but they still played hard. And that is certainly a testament to Wittman. It is sad that not every team in the league plays hard for their coach, but this Wizards team does, no doubt.
Lastly, Wittman has handed the ball over to John Wall and made him the guy for this team. The NBA is a star-driven league and Wittman is letting Wall lead this team. And Wall has responded as he has become one of the best point guards in the league. Wittman has made the Wizards offense centered around Wall’s and others’ strengths.
Witman has spread the floor and allowed Wall to break defenders and find shooters, like Trevor Ariza, Webster, and Beal, off the dribble. The Wizards are shooting 38.7 percent from beyond the arc, which is fourth best in the league, and Wittman has made that a staple in his offense. He puts Wall in a ton of pick and rolls throughout the game with Marcin Gortat, who thrived in a pick and roll system in his years in Phoenix and has been efficient running it with Wall. It is simple as playing to your team strengths, but many coaches stick to what they do and know best. Wittman realizes what gives the Wizards the best chance to win and that is a huge reason why he is still on the bench calling the shots for them.
It is never easy doing your job when their is a truckload of pressure on you. So, I applaud Randy Wittman for what he has done through 29 games with a Wizards team that has battled through injuries and virtually gotten nothing from their number three overall pick from the 2013 draft, Otto Porter (2.3 points per game in 10 games). I have no clue what Wittman’s future looks like in the nation’s capital, but I do know we should give him some credit now after writing him off at the beginning of the year.