Randy Wittman returned to Target Center as a head coach for the first time since Dec. 6, 2008, when his Timberwolves were humiliated by the Los Angeles Clippers, 107-84. Two days later, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor fired Wittman and replaced him with Kevin McHale, then the vice president of basketball operations.
Wittman stepped in for another former Timberwolves coach, Flip Saunders, as the head coach of the Wizards in Jan. 24, 2012 but the team never traveled to Minneapolis during the lockout-shortened season. As coach of the Wizards, Saunders lost both games at Target Center, with Wittman serving as his assistant. More four years since he coached his last game in Minnesota, Wittman said he is a different coach with the Wizards than he was with the Timberwolves.
“You learn. Each year you learn,” Wittman said. “It’s been a number of years since I’ve been here. I think you just, the situations you’re in, this one being very similar to the one I was in here as the head coach, of a young team, growing and I think you pick up different things that you do differently – patience being one of them, being an important part. Everybody wants to win and lose and you have to do it the right way and you have to sometimes go through some tough times to get to that point. I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Wittman has gone 37-80 in Washington after going 38-105 for parts of three seasons in Minnesota. All-star forward Kevin Love is the only player remaining from Wittman’s time with the Timberwolves. Wittman worked for the Timberwolves for two stints as an assistant – from 1994-99 and from 2001 until he replaced Dwane Casey as head coach on Jan. 23, 2007.
“I spent a lot of years here, so it’s always great to come back here,” Wittman said. “Brings back a lot of the memories that I had here. A lot of the good ones. So anytime I come back here to Minnesota, there are a lot of faces that I know. From that standpoint it’s nice coming back here.”
His favorite memory is going to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. “That team that we had that year was a special team and we didn’t get to finish the deal, but one that we took this franchise farthest that it has ever been and on the cusp of making the Finals,” he said. “It was a good moment.”
The Wizards (19-39) will attempt to match their win total from last season in seven fewer games, but they will not have Bradley Beal as he recovers from a sprained left ankle suffered in the previous game against Philadelphia, but Wittman said he is making progress. Trevor Ariza is expected to replace Beal in the starting lineup.