Dozens of professional writers have tackled the Wizards’ smart basketball woes this year, but I’m not sure that any of them have come up with an analogy better than the one interim coach Randy Wittman dropped at his first post-game press conference.
This is a fairly long answer, but it’s sprinkled with goodness. The question, I believed, concerned the ways in which his approach would differ from his predecessor and former boss, Flip Saunders.
“I don’t know,” Wittman said. “I’m doing what I know to do. This is how I coach. You know what, most things people have ever told me when I’ve taken over jobs is be yourself. I can’t be anybody but myself. And that’s kind of what I did. We didn’t invent a new offense. You know, we tried to get pace into the game and play quicker and get ball movement from one side to the other. I was really pleased with that for the most part.
“Now, we fell back a couple times. All right? We fell back a couple times, not wanting to make that extra pass and not making the right pass, getting the ball stolen and kicked and turnovers.
“You know, it’s like any bad habit we have, all right? If you’re a smoker, you ain’t gonna drop those cigarettes the first day, all right? I’ve got to help them kick some of these bad habits that we’re into. That’s all it is. We’ve fallen into playing a way that is not conducive for us to win. So when I see them pull out a cigarette, I’ve got to take it out of their mouth. All right? That’s basically what I’m trying to do.
“There’s nothing new we really added, other than trying to make the pace of the game and the ball movement from one side to the other and attacking. I thought that was the most important thing that I tried to get us to do. I didn’t bring out John Wooden’s UCLA offense or anything.”
I realize this has nothing to do with winning basketball games or pleasing fans, but Wittman would appear to be far more quotable than Saunders, based on that press conference. By the very next question, Wittman appeared to be on the verge of tears, as he was asked about waking up as an interim head coach.
“I didn’t wake up,” he said. “I never went to sleep. Hey, it’s been tough. This is tough, all right, this is tough. The last time [I was an interim coach], I said I don’t ever want to do it again. You know, I’m happy for them, but it’s tough. To go through the things we’ve gone through, it’s tough.”
Then he was asked what the win meant for himself.
“Well, a win is a win,” he said. “I’m happy. I’m gonna sleep tonight. Ask me tomorrow. I’m gonna sleep tonight. Hey, absolutely this is what the league’s about. C’mon, I’ve been in the league now 30 years as a player and a coach. Ownership, management, it’s about winning. That’s what this boils down to. We got a win. Now, are we gonna win games at a clip that Oklahoma City is now? No. We need to win, though, we need to win and that’s what it’s about. Win the games that this team is supposed to win.”
And keep chucking out those cigs.