By Jake Sweltz
Once upon a time, Randy Wittman was an NBA punchline. A year and a half ago, before he unleashed Paul Pierce at power forward and won a playoff series, Wittman had come to symbolize Washington’s stubborn commitment to goodness over greatness. Man, that backcourt is something special, but they need a real coach!
Fast forward to April 14, 2016. The Wizards finally announce they’ve dismissed head coach Randy Wittman. The move was expected for weeks; Beal’s been hurt, the team has looked disinterested, and in any case, management wants to hire Scotty Brooks in a feeble attempt to lure KD to D.C. Everyone agrees Wittman is basically a scape goat for a lost season rather than a mediocre coach who probably should have been canned two years earlier. In the meantime, Randy racked up enough wins to become (statistically) one of the “most successful coaches in Wizards history.”
I’d say that’s a pretty favorable development for the Wittman narrative. And he deserves it! Sure, he was never going to be Phil Jackson, but he established a coherent (if somewhat conservative) culture and style of play in Wizard world. As Wall developed and Beal struggled with injuries, Wittman dutifully steered the ship. He whipped the team into good enough shape for the media to start complaining that he wasn’t “elite” enough to lead them in the playoffs, and pretty soon he was popping up on Vine (which, unless you’re Jay Wright, is never a good look for a basketball coach).
Beating Toronto last year helped a bit, but the rap on Wittman had always been that he was out of his depth. That’s probably as true today as it ever was, but this listless Wizards season has shifted the blame for Washington’s dysfunction way beyond Wittman.
Go figure that after his worst season in three years, Randy’s rep might actually be in better shape than ever.