Remember when the 'Fire Flip Saunders' movement started getting serious traction? One of the holdouts would demand to know who would succeed Flip at which point a hapless, hopeful poster would venture 'Sam Cassell'? At which point the holdouts would chuckle and say, 'Well, maybe. But when Flip was with his sick mother, Randy Wittman was in charge. That's probably who it would be.' Everyone would get very grim and hang their e-heads as if the franchise's death knell had been struck. I certainly didn't anticipate the kind of encouraging results we've seen from Randy & Co. Of course, we can't ignore the obvious benefits of dumping JaVale McGee and Nick Young while adding Nene Hilario...but let's not spoil the moment. The real question is determining how much credit Randy gets, and what that might mean when it's time to hire a new head coach.
There's a curious notion going around that beat writers need to remind Wizards fans that despite Randy Wittman's initial reluctance to take on the head coaching role, he really would like to stay. Of course he wants to stay. The reluctant stance was a great one to take from a locker room perspective. With the Wizards being the butt of every joke from TNT to ESPN despite the Bobcats y'know, existing, a little faith from the new coach was a well thought out gesture. What coach doesn't want to be the head coach...especially again?
His familiarity with the roster cuts both ways. We questioned Ernie Grunfeld's vision, so it's only fair we question whether or not Randy has the chops to get the team any distance in the postseason. As a former instructor, it's hard to underplay the value of of watching your predecessor interact with your squad and not learn exactly what they need and how mistakes are being made/could be avoided...especially if you're anticipating an opportunity to take over. I'm definitely NOT ascribing unsavory motives to Randy, simply noting that a former head coach given plenty to time to watch what didn't work found enough that might gimmick the team to a respectable finish. That might not carry over into a full season. That's a possibility.
Of course, his familiarity with the roster swings the other way, as well. Easy enough to make the case that the roster as it stands is the heart of the new franchise and that Randy has established a rapport resulting in both trust, progress and momentum for a team in desperate need of it. We can say Randy learned enough from Flip's mistakes to give this team exactly what they needed to grow and that this team needs that continuity to build on the end of the season, that they need someone to ride them and we already have the perfect coach in place to do that.
No one will say Randy Wittman is our Scott Brooks (because the Thunder come up sooner or later). Some might say Randy isn't an up-and-comer while others might feel better about Coach Wittman having more experience with the X's and O's side of the job. Whether you feel his sophomore campaign would be more Paul Silas or Frank Vogel, a lot depends on being able to get the most out of the talent on the roster, and THAT became FAR easier with the trade.
Tough to dump on Flip Saunders after viewing the massive turnaround that came with trading Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf for Nene Hilario. That also makes it extremely difficult to judge the job that Randy did. How much of the Wizards failure to achieve over Flip's tenure can be laid at the feet of those two (you know which two) and conversely how impressive is the job that Randy did if they were a primary limiting factor? How much credit does Nene get independent of Randy's coaching? If that 3-8 record without Nene and Ernie's extension are factored in, maybe not so much.
We also have to take Ted's proclivities into account. The man loves institutional inertia and never embraces change for change's sake, so a new coach isn't certain. "Reports" the Wiz are looking to make a change notwithstanding. Is it still a good bet? Yeah, it is. Randy has been a great interim coach but he's obviously no lock to be at the helm when training camp kicks off. One thing Ted shouldn't ignore is that the team seems to be playing the way they were designed to, and while that was in Randy's best short-term interest, it resulted in John Wall feeling like he was in his third season. If John felt like he had a new lease on professional life, does Randy deserve one? Would a new coach who might not be playing to this team's strengths as designed by Ernie Grunfeld be an optimal fit? Remember, the Rockets and Rick Adelman parted ways due in part to the roster construction of eclectic evil mastermind Daryl Morey (did they throw the baby out with the bathwater?). Fit with the GM's vision for the team is important, regardless of who it is. Many of us at Bullets Forever have expressed interest in an up-and-coming assistant coach...could Randy Wittman be the new blood you're looking for?