Wizards Introduce Wittman, Cassell

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hours after the Washington Wizards announced that he was hired as an assistant on Coach Flip Saunders's staff, Randy Wittman went out to dinner with his new boss and told Saunders a story from his first day as a player in the NBA.

In 1983, the Washington Bullets drafted Wittman, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Indiana, with the 22nd overall pick. Wittman said he wore a Bullets hat for "about 10 minutes" before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks for 6-11 forward Tom McMillen.

"I'm telling Flip this story [Thursday] night and as soon as Tom McMillen's words came out of my mouth, he walked in the door," Wittman said Friday following a pre-draft workout at Verizon Center. "It was a little scary."

Wittman was an assistant on Saunders's staff in Minnesota from 1995 to '99. He has served as head coach with Cleveland and Minnesota. He chuckled, commenting that his career path has come full circle.

The same could be said for former NBA guard Sam Cassell, who also was named an assistant on Saunders's staff. Cassell, a Baltimore native, played 15 seasons in the NBA before retiring Thursday and immediately entering the coaching profession.

Cassell, who played for Saunders in Minnesota, said he first felt the desire to become a coach during his fifth year in the league, when he was a member of the New Jersey Nets.

"The good teams respect their coaches," said Cassell, who won three NBA titles during his playing career. "That's why they're good teams."

Now, Cassell and Wittman are charged with helping Saunders turn the Wizards, who finished 19-63 this season, back into a good team. Both said they believe the pieces are in place, and both have been involved in conducting the team's pre-draft workouts, from which future pieces may be gleaned.

Guards Dwayne Anderson (Villanova), Micah Downs (Gonzaga), Gordon Watt (Houston Baptist) and Weyinmi Efejuku (Providence) participated in Friday's workout.

"I don't have to tell them what I've done; they saw how I was as a player," Cassell said. "Just trying to get everyone together on the same page is our goal as a coaching staff."

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