Wizards General Manager Ernie Grunfeld met with his players for about an hour before shootaround to inform them that Flip Saunders was no longer the coach and would be replaced for the remainder of the season by Randy Wittman. Wittman then assumed control of the meeting to discuss individual roles and expectations going forward.
The Wizards (2-15) have given Wittman the reins, hoping that a new voice and a pledge to play a style that better complements the speed and athleticism of the team will lead to better results. Wittman has been a coach before in Cleveland and Minnesota, compiling a 100-207 record, but he didn’t necessarily want to become the 23rd head coach in Wizards franchise history at the expense of losing his long-time friend, Saunders.
“It’s tough. I don’t like being here today. I’m not real happy about this,” Wittman said. “But I am here today because I believe these guys are better than what they are. I really do believe that they are. I’ve got to get them to believe that. And if we can reach that point, we’re going to show that we’re better than what we are. We’re in this together. I’m in this with them. I’m going to help them, as much as I can, reach that potential.”
Wittman informed his players that they have a clean slate with him and he wouldn’t make judgments based on past failures or accomplishments.
“It’s a new day,” Roger Mason Jr. said. “Randy Wittman is Randy Wittman, he’s not Flip Saunders, and so he’s going to do things his way, and it’s going to be a different voice, and hopefully we respond better than we did to the previous coach. It’s always sad to see somebody lose their job, and we all feel bad about it because the way we played is why he’s not here. But this is a results driven league and we weren’t performing under coach Flip and now Randy’s here.”
Mason only played this season for Saunders, who famously omitted Mason’s name from the team roster in Milwaukee, and sounded prepared to move forward. “I think he let the guys know he’s got our back no matter what, and that we all have to have each other’s back. It was good to hear,” Mason said. “We all like coach Randy. He’s going to hold every accountable, and I think with a young team it’s really what we need.”
Wittman said his regular rotation would be determined over the next few weeks and added that he likely wouldn’t make too many adjustments to the system and playbook with a condensed season and few practices. “I don’t have any miracles given to me to change it without any hard work and change of attitude and everything we do on the floor.”
Wittman reiterated comments from the day before that minutes will be earned and limited production will not be rewarded. “If they want to play, they are going to have to be accountable. I think every player wants to play. If they don’t, we’ve got to find a way to get them out of here,” he said. “That’s pretty easy, to be honest with you. Doing your job and doing it the way it needs to be done, you’ll play. If not, I’ll find somebody else to play.”