Randy Wittman made a big move that finally worked

November 30, 2012

Aren’t you glad we all talked it out? (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

While explaining his need for feedback and input from his players this week, Coach Randy Wittman revealed how he is so old school that he hasn’t even acknowledged the latest advancements in the equipment used to design plays up during timeouts.

“I can sit on that chalkboard and draw it up. It looks good on the dang-on chalkboard,” Wittman said. “I’ve got some of the best plays in the world. Some of the best defensive schemes. But you’ve got to be able to do it on the floor. And if we’ve got guys that have a way to tweak it and make it better for them, they are the ones that can do it and I’m always for that interaction from my players.”

Wittman actually uses a marker and a dry erase board to come up with strategies but he’s still stuck on calling it the clunky slate that left dust on the finest suits back in the day. Through the first 12 games, Wittman would send out instructions to his players and the performance would often be the visual equivalent of fingernails scratching a chalkboard – annoying.

Wittman, though, isn’t too inflexible or set in his ways to listen to other voices that matter. And his decision to seek a better understanding of his players and their concerns about the poor start during a meeting before Tuesday’s practice contributed significantly the Wizards claiming their first victory of the season, 84-82, against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“He’s treating us like men,” reserve Bradley Beal said. “He’s prepping us for the game, and it’s up to us to go out there and win the game. That’s what we did, and the meeting definitely helped us.”

By allowing players to feel more engaged and involved with what happened on the court, Wittman also encouraged them to be more frank and honest with other, which has been a challenge for a team with so many new pieces trying to get familiar with each other and a different system.

“We started talking more, and that led to talking out there, which we have problems with, and then I think we executed a lot better. I hope it rolls over,” forward Chris Singleton said as the Wizards will attempt to win two games in a row on Friday in New York against the New York Knicks.

“It’s just something at the beginning of the season we were all hesitant to say anything,” Singleton said. “Now he’s trying to tell us since we’re out there on the court that we should be the ones talking, not him or the other coaches coming back into the huddle and correcting everything. We have to correct ourselves if we’re going to get better.”

The Wizards have relied on their defense throughout the season, but they were at their best against the Trail Blazers. Calling out plays and screens and helping each other, they held Portland to opponent season lows in points (82), assists (14) and field goal percentage (34.9).

“This game is a perfect example to keep progressing, keep learning,” Nene said. “We were more vocal. We communicate more on defense compared to other games. That helped a lot.”

Wittman also appears to have settled into a rotation that he feels comfortable with, as 10 players received 15 or more minutes, Jan Vesely saw the floor for a less than a second, and Earl Barron and Cartier Martin didn’t play at all.  In order to get consistent efforts, the players need to get comfortable in their roles, which is something that was communicated during the meeting.

“I’m getting there. I’m getting there,” Wittman said. “I like what I saw. I went with kind of the same thing that I did the other night. I’m working on it.”

If only someone would let him know the difference between a chalkboard and a whiteboard.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · November 29, 2012

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