Randy Wittman on his critics


(John Bazemore / AP)

You’d possibly have to venture deep into the subterranean world of the Wizards blog comment sections to be familiar with this, but there is a large number of die-hard fans who believe this year’s team would have a better record under a different head coach.

(Another thing you would learn in that dimly-lit world: 47 percent of Randy Wittman critics believe his last name is spelled “Whitman.” He’s certainly large, but I don’t know about containing multitudes.)

(That was a joke about poetry.)

(But seriously, spell his name right.)

Anyhow, Wittman presides over Washington’s only pro sports team that hasn’t failed to meet expectations in the past year, but there’s absolutely a school of thought that says the Wizards need a new coach to surge past relative mediocrity. Andy Pollin — the ESPN 980 and SportsTalk 570 host — asked Wittman about that argument week, in an interview that will air during his Sports Reporters program on 570 Friday morning.

Yeah, Randy Wittman’s done a great job, but is he the guy to take you to the next level?” Pollin said, summarizing that viewpoint. “Does that kind of talk rankle you?”

“No,” Wittman said. “You know what? It’s kind of funny you bring that up. I was in a discussion about different jobs — I think we were talking about referees, and the scrutiny referees are under. If you go into that job not knowing you’re going to have scrutiny — with every player in the league hating you and every coach hating you — then you’re fooling yourself. When I started 21 years ago, [I knew] if you couldn’t handle criticism, especially from the media and from the fans, then I’m gonna be a failure.

“And so no, you know what, I don’t pay any attention to it,” Wittman went on. “Everybody’s got their opinion. Hey, I’ve got my opinion of a lot of different people too. You’ve got to believe in yourself, number one, and you’ve got to understand that people are going to say and have their opinions on different things — rotations of players, guys I’m playing, the job I’m doing. If I let that bother me, boy, I’m going to be not very long in this league.”

“It’s not just the criticism of the job you’re doing now, but it’s like well, you know he’s not Phil Jackson, or he’s not Larry Brown,” Pollin said. “But how do you get a chance to prove yourself unless you have talent like you do now?”

“Well, that’s what we’re doing. That’s all I can do,” Wittman answered. “You know what? I’m not Phil Jackson and I’m not Larry Brown and I don’t pretend to be. I’m a pretty good coach, though. And I believe in the things that I’ve done here since taking over, trying to get these guys to understand how to play and how to grow into the players that we’re starting to see. I truly believe in what we’re doing here, and the results that we have, that we’re doing the right thing.

“So that’s it,” the coach concluded. “You know what? All I’m concerned about are my players. And the end result is winning, and we’ve got to continue to move in that direction. And if we do, you know what, there’s a lot of objection to a lot of things. Whether you’re a football coach, baseball coach…that’s part of the business. That really is. It might sound like I’m blowing it off, but hey, it is. Hey, I watch the NFL games on Sunday and say what the heck’s that coach doing?

Everybody’s a critic. Anyhow, nothing he says will mollify his critics; only wins, and playoff success, can do that. But maybe spelling out his thoughts can at least convince people to spell his last name correctly.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg | March 13