“Cartier! Stay in the corner,” Wittman shouted, then glared at Martin as he walked to the bench.
Fuming, Wittman took several seconds to gather himself before acknowledging his assistant coaches, who were circling around him, waiting for some instruction. Wittman finally sat down, scribbled on his white erase board and reminded his players to stick to the plays as they are drawn up before he finally moved on.
“Our effort, has got to be a constant for us. Going out and playing with that every night,” Wittman said, adding that he wants to make sure “we don’t take nights off from an effort level and we keep striving to improve.”
The Wizards (2-4) haven’t been placed in the most ideal situation this preseason, with their two best players sidelined with injury and several others missing time for various ailments. But at no point has Wittman used the absence of John Wall, Nene, or anyone else as an excuse — nor has he allowed any slippage from the players he has left.
Wittman won over his team after stepping in as a midseason replacement for Flip Saunders last January, and his low-key yet demanding, sometimes ornery and often hilarious style is already connecting with the new players the Wizards have added in the past few months.
“He’s one of those people, he’s not going to hold nothing back,” said forward Trevor Ariza, a seven-year veteran who arrived in Washington in a trade with New Orleans last June. “He’s not going to sugarcoat anything. He’s going to give it to you straight and I like that. I think that’s good. I think more coaches need to be that way.”
Wittman hasn’t had much success as a head coach, posting a career record of 118-238, but he also has never had a favorable hand. He was asked to guide a Cleveland team with a mostly declining roster featuring Shawn Kemp and a youthful Minnesota team that was making the ugly transition out of the Kevin Garnett era.
With just his fourth full training camp as a head coach, Wittman has finally been able to implement his own schemes and systems in Washington. Wittman wants his team to be play an uptempo style that feeds off pressure defense, but still hasn’t seen his projected rotation of healthy players take the floor.
That has required constant tinkering and experimentation, going with what will work now without waiting for some calvary to arrive.
“You just keep coaching. That’s all you can do,” Wittman said. “The good thing is, it’s early here. And hopefully, as we move forward, we get pieces back.”
With starting spots available at almost every position, Wittman has allowed the players to determine roles with their play, rotating different groups without assigning jobs based on salary or draft slot.