Washington Wizards: Should Randy Wittman Be Fired?

Jan 18, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman yells from the bench against the Portland Trail Blazers in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Blazers won 108-98. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman yells from the bench against the Portland Trail Blazers in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Blazers won 108-98. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards are in need of change, but is it as simple as hiring a new coach? Here’s a look at what options the Wizards may have.

The Washington Wizards‘ season seems to be getting worse and worse. A mass of injuries has led to multiple lineup changes and a lack of chemistry that has been consistent throughout the season, but the team’s struggles can’t be solely attributed to guys missing time. Many have pointed to head coach Randy Wittman as the main issue.

So, the question that’s been lingering the past few weeks is should Wittman be fired?

There are some that say he’s already overstayed his welcome and should be let go immediately, some who think it’s best if the Wizards wait until the end of the season, and some who think he’s not to blame at all. I’m going to look into each scenario.

Why Wittman should be fired now

NBA coaches nowadays (those not named Gregg Popovich) are constantly in the hot seat. We’ve seen it over the last few years from the firings of many successful coaches that just couldn’t quite make it over the hump, like Mark Jackson, George Karl and most recently, David Blatt.

Seasons for playoff teams are considered failures if a championship isn’t won, and sometimes a change in leadership can be the perfect spark to light the fire a team needs. Some coaches just hit an unbreakable ceiling with their teams, when they’ve done all they can do and lack the “outside-looking-in” perspective to know where they can improve, even if it seems obvious to others.

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  • To me, that’s about where Wittman is with the Wizards. He’s never proven himself to be a masterful X’s and O’s coach, but more the type to get his team to buy into his system. You’ve never heard of his players openly criticizing his coaching style, and that’s a big part of having a successful organization in the NBA.

    The problem is, Wittman doesn’t know what to do anymore. He began the season with the small-ball mentality that so many teams have adopted as of late, but has completely given up on it and reverted back to lineups with two big men that don’t know how to be on the floor together.

    He’s suffocating John Wall by clogging up the lane and refuses to accept that the Wizards can’t win games playing this way.

    So, what’s the point of keeping him any longer? While none of the players have voiced their frustrations with Wittman, I can’t imagine they’re happy. And a new face in charge could be exactly what the players need to get on a roll and begin winning games.

    I think making the playoffs may be out of the question at this point, but now it’s just a matter of keeping the team positive, especially after it was reported that the team held a “players only” meeting after Thursday night’s loss to the Nuggets. Something needs to change.

    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

    Why the Wizards should give him until the end of the season

    This idea was first introduced to me after reading a post from Jake Whitacre on Bullets Forever, and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

    Whitacre makes multiple points supporting this, but the one that stood out to me the most was that there just isn’t anyone who can take Wittman’s spot right now that can make a real difference:

    "“…guys like David Blatt, Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau aren’t going to take a new job now when they can wait until the offseason to see what positions become available. That means the Wizards will need to promote from within, whether it’s appointing someone from Wittman’s staff, or shifting Ed Tapscott into the role since he’s been the Wizards’ interim coach before.”"

    Do the Wizards really want this? While there could be an interim coach promoted from within for the remainder of the season, that may not be the best look for a team that’s hoping to land Kevin Durant once he’s a free agent in the offseason. There wouldn’t be much risk in letting Wittman stay for the rest of the season, when it seems as if playoff chances are going out the window.

    Whitacre also discusses the fact that because Wittman still has his job, that means Wall hasn’t asked for him to be fired. If your team’s superstar doesn’t want a new coach right now, then you probably shouldn’t hire a new coach. That may be different at season’s end, but for now it could be safe to let Wittman ride out the end of the season.

    Why Wittman maybe shouldn’t be fired at all

    While they may be in the minority, there are people who believe Wittman shouldn’t be blamed for the Wizards’ disaster of a season. There have been talks about the Wizards inevitably pointing to a “fall guy” for how this season has gone, and it’s always easy to blame the coach.

    But, while no one likes making excuses, its undeniable that Washington’s season would be looking much different right now if it weren’t for the injuries. The Wizards have had players miss more games than any other team in the league, according to Mangameslost.com, and people were too quick to criticize Wittman for not knowing exactly what lineups will work and which ones won’t with that kind of instability.

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    It may be a risk keeping Wittman next season and seeing if he really can coach a healthy Wizards team deep into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but it also may be unfair to put all of the blame on him for the team’s struggles.

    Not every team is going to have a Gregg Popovich, and an organization has to understand that it takes effort from countless angles in order for a team to be successful. Coaching is just one of those angles.

    “Staying the course” is the term that comes to mind when advocating Wittman to remain as the Wizards’ head coach. Sometimes, a team needs to decide that it will be all in on something that it’s invested a lot of time and effort in, and not blow it up at the first sign of discomfort.

    The Verdict?

    To me, it makes the most sense for the Wizards to keep Wittman for the remainder of the season. Don’t let the players get any more distracted than they already are, and wait until basketball isn’t being played to really step back and evaluate not only whether or not Wittman should be fired, but who the best and available candidates are that could replace him.

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    The Wizards need a miracle to make the playoffs this season, and causing more chaos could cause a deep, downward spiral for the team.