It is being reported by multiple sources that the Washington Wizards are expected to extend head coach Randy Wittman‘s contract for three years after he led the Wizards to their first playoff series win since 2005.
Wittman, who has a career coaching record of 191-329 (.367), will be the man expected to help the Wizards take the next step as an NBA franchise. It was nice they made the playoffs and won a series this year in the Eastern Conference, but can Wittman take this team to the next level as a legit contender? That is the question everyone is asking and only time will tell, but I have my doubts.
First off, let’s put all of Wittman’s previous coaching years aside (this was the first team he ever coached with an above .400 record) and take a look at what he did this year with this team and how it translates moving forward. This year was the absolute perfect year for Randy Wittman to be in a contract year. He was blessed with ownership who wanted to win and win now and gave him the roster to do that. The team traded for Marcin Gortat before the season and got Andre Miller in the middle of it.
Also, the Wizards were in the Eastern Conference, a conference with two really good teams and a bunch of mediocre or bad teams. He got Trevor Ariza in a contract year. All Wittman had to do was not screw it up. And he didn’t. Believe it or not, NOT screwing up is all you have to do sometimes in order to be successful. So props to Wittman on that. He also built an offense around John Wall and made him in All-Star in doing so. He devised a defense scheme that was the eighth most efficient defense in the league, allowing 104.6 points per 100 possessions. I would say he did a good job coaching this season.
But with all that said, I don’t see Randy Wittman taking this franchise to that next level in these next three years. He is not a good in-game coach. He often had wacky and irrational rotations through the regular season and struggled with making in-game adjustments. The Wizards blew 12 double digit leads throughout the season and his inability to make adjustments throughout the course of a game was a big reason why the Wizards won 44 games instead of 50-plus. That is what a next level type coach does. He makes adjustments throughout games so he doesn’t blow 12 double digit leads throughout the course of an 82-game schedule. That is 15 percent of the team’s games. I’m not saying that’s all on Wittman, but there has to be some accountability.
I think most coaches with NBA credibility win 40-plus in games in this year’s Eastern Conference with this Wizards team. I don’t think there’s much of an argument there. Look at the Los Angeles Clippers with Vinny Del Negro. He won 56 games as the head coach in 2012-13 before getting canned. If Wizards management were running the Clippers, they would’ve kept Del Negro and not pursued Doc Rivers. Look at the development we saw with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan this year. Coaching matters. It was no coincidence those guys had career years the year Rivers took over.
That is just what Wizards management is and has always been. We knew this was going to happen. It just was. The Wizards have been a lowly franchise for some time now because they make close-minded moves like this. Ernie Grunfeld has been the general manager since 2003. That is the the fifth longest tenure in the entire league. Want to know who the guys are ahead of him? Pat Riley (Heat), Mitch Kupchak (Lakers), R.C. Buford (Spurs) and Danny Ainge (Celtics). They have 11 rings combined. The Wizards have 14 playoff wins since Grunfeld has taken over. When you see things like Grunfeld sticking around through some awful years for no real logical reason, it is no surprise the Wizards are going to extend Wittman. There are a lot of questions facing Wittman moving forward.
What happens if the Wizards lose one of Gortat or Ariza or both to free agency this offseason? Can he figure out a way to make this team as good or better with a couple of lesser players because of salary cap restrictions? Or what about his offense that often stalled out and made Bradley Beal a terribly inefficient offensive player, when he shouldn’t be (shot 41.9 percent from the floor)? For such a defensive minded coach, does he have it in him to help make Beal and Wall meet their full potential as offensive players (with their full potential being off-the-charts high)? The franchise is banking on this duo to take them to new heights. These are questions you have to look at and they are monumental in taking the Wizards to that next level. I just have a hard time believing it’s going to happen. You want to win 45 games for the next three years? That’s fine, because that’s what you’re getting with Wittman.
The one thing that is nice about the Wizards sticking with Wittman is that they will have what a lot of NBA teams lack currently: stability. All teams that are potential contenders have stability so that is a plus.
But I remain skeptical.