Despite the Wizards being off to a franchise-worst 0-8 start, the organization does not have any intention of firing Coach Flip Saunders at this time, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
In more than two seasons with the team, Saunders is just 49-123 and the Wizards have set franchise records for consecutive road losses (25) and consecutive losses overall (16). After the Wizards suffered a humiliating 21-point home loss to Minnesota on Sunday, Saunders was asked if he felt that he was running out of chances to get through to his players.
“No I don’t fear that,” Saunders said. “I think I know the process that we’re going through, and I know it’s a painful process.”
Saunders is in the third year of a four-year, $18 million contract that he signed in April 2009.
He was hired to lead a team featuring Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to the playoffs but was forced to lead the franchise through its rebuilding efforts after Arenas brought guns into the locker room and forced President Ernie Grunfeld to blow up the roster.
According to one source, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis doesn’t want to change course on the rebuilding plans and incorporate a “plan B” just eight games into the season. Leonsis would like to see progress with the team but has never been known to make emotional or rash decisions, given his history with the NHL’s Capitals. He has also written several times on his blog that the process of building through the draft would be difficult.
Leonsis wrote on Monday, “There is a lot of noise right now – and lots of angst – I have found the best thing to do in times of stress and turmoil is to do research; be analytical; NOT emotional; and try to find ways to improve. . . . Obviously – no one is happy with the progress we are making as a team; it is important that we be measured and smart in how we move forward.”
Saunders said he would have to do a better job but complained that the players aren’t doing their homework, though his staff equips them with scouting reports well in advance of games. His players agreed.
“I don’t feel everybody is listening and following behind what he says and doing what he wants us to do,” Andray Blatche said.
Saunders is the third coach for Blatche, Nick Young and JaVale McGee, a trio that remains inconsistent despite enhanced roles within the team. When asked if Saunders’s message was getting through the players, Wall said, “I think it’s getting through. It’s just tough playing out there.”
Rookie Chris Singleton criticized the Wizards’ losing culture after his first game but noted that the players aren’t displaying the toughness needed to turn around the situation. They held a players-only meeting after starting the season 0-6, but have yet to produce any different results.
“You got to want to win,” he said. “Like coach says, if it doesn’t work the first time, you got to fix it. The main two words he uses in practice are ‘Fix it.’ That’s when the players have to come together and fix it. We can talk about to all we want but we have to show it out there on the court.”