On Nov. 26, the Wizards lost a home game to San Antonio, 118-92. It was the 12th straight loss to start the season, and the postgame locker room for the Wizards was an emotional scene. On Thursday, a tale told by Martell Webster revealed for the first time just how emotional it was.
“After we lost that 12th game and he came into the locker room – I don’t even know if he wants me to share this, but I don’t care – and he was crying, man, after that game,” Webster said. “And he told us that he cared about us. And for me, that was a point in the season where I was just like, I’m in. I’m totally in. I bought into the system. And when I did that, that’s when my season began to turn to a positive light, and I started to succeed after that point.
“That meant a lot because it showed that he really cared. He didn’t care about his job. He didn’t. He just cared about the guys that he was coaching. And that was amazing. That was touching for me. But that’s when I realized that I really wanted to buy into this system.”
A.J. Price said he also committed to the system after that night.
“I definitely remember that,” he said. “That showed me how passionate he was as a coach. I think it did a lot for us, in terms of how we viewed him as a coach. Because anytime you get a head coach [crying], that’s not normal. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s just not normal that you’d see a coach show that much emotion, especially in this business. It let us know that we were dealing with a special type of guy who really cared about the job. Really cared about us as players, and I think that led to us really buying in even more and really giving it all we got, because he was showing to use that he was giving it all he had.”
One by one, each player who was asked about that night admitted just how much the moment meant to them.
“I cried with him, because it was a tough moment,” said Nene. “Coach, he exposed his emotions for sure. And he lead us.”
Bradley Beal, who told me earlier in the season that he shed his own tears after an early home loss, said that as a rookie it was impactful to see his coach get so emotional.
“It just showed that he was passionate,” he said. “He loved us and wanted the best for us. It definitely just showed his character.”
When asked about it, Wittman’s first response was to fake shock at the very notion that he would cry.
“I think we all know how much Martell Webster can exaggerate sometimes,” he joked. “We only had one guy that really cried a lot here and that was our young kid Bradley. ”
But then he got serious, and explained why he got so emotional.
“We went through so much at the start of the year,” he said. “And the thing that really got me emotional more was the fight and the heart that these guys were putting into it, and we had nothing to show for it.
“This is a game of emotion,” Wittman continued. “I’m an emotional guy. I don’t hide things from you guys, I don’t hide things from my players. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. That was the point, though, that showed me that these guys, even though we were 0-12, had a lot of heart. Had a lot of conviction to go out and continue to fight when it could have been easy to say, ‘Why?’ And they continued to do it. And I wanted them to know, even though we were 0-12, and it might sound funny, how much I appreciated that, and how much I really trusted in them.”
The next game, two nights after Wittman opened up to the team, the Wizards beat Portland at home, 84-82, for their first win of the season.
“I really sensed that if I could keep these guys plugging, it was gonna turn for us,” said Wittman. “And it did.”
Here’s Webster telling the story of that night: