While I've been just as happy as everyone else here with the recent run of impressive wins, part of me still looks at this team and wonders why it isn't on pace for 48-50 wins instead of the 41-43 it's probably going to finish with. And I can't help but wonder if this team is succeeding in spite of Randy Wittman, not because of him.
[Obligatory, Possibly Credibility-Killing Disclaimer: I'm not pulling up many stats to support my claim here. I know that. This is based entirely on the eyeball test and common sense. I can't tell you what good coaching is, but I know it when I see it. And I just don't see it with this Wizards team. We now resume our regularly scheduled FanPost, already in progress...]
I could point out the lack of halftime adjustments (until recently), the lack of overall player development, the lack of a reliable rotation, the lack of late game execution, the apparent lack of preparation for lower quality opponents, and (until recently) the team's dismal home record as evidence. I'm sure some of you will say "well look at our road record" and "we've beaten some great teams recently" and you'd be 100% correct.
But for a team this talented that has been relatively healthy most of the season to be teetering around the 5th/6th seed in a terrible Eastern Conference right now is puzzling. Poor late game execution in losses to the Bucks, Celtics, Jazz, and Nuggets is reprehensible. And I just can't shake the feeling that a more credible coach would have this team firing on all cylinders right now. Not sputtering around the breakeven mark and unable to string together more than 3 straight wins.
Some coaches with arguably less talent and/or more injury issues are outdoing the Wizards right now. Look at Toronto, where Dwane Casey lost is (arguably) best player and has his team fighting for homecourt advantage. Or Atlanta, where Mike Budenholzer has lost Al Horford for the season, has no credible center, and is wringing great performances out of guys like Mike Scott, Cartier Martin (just resigned and playing crunch time minutes), and Shelvin Mack. Or Chicago, where Tom Thibodeau has lost his best player for the season and watched management trade away his 2nd best, yet we're only 1/2 game better. Or Charlotte, where Kemba Walker and MKG both lost significant time, but Steve Clifford has a seriously untalented team right in the mix for that 8th spot. I could go on, but I won't.
[Sidebar: I watched the Hawks take the Pacers to the limit last night. In crunch time, they had a rookie PG (Schroeder), a 2nd round free agent signee (Mack), another 2nd rounder (Scott), an unsigned FA they just picked up off the street (Martin) and their sole remaining good player (Milsap) on the floor. Down 5 with under a minute to go, they ran the most impressive play I've seen in some time to get Martin a wide open 3, which he swished. I've never, ever, ever seen Randy run a late game inbounds play that immaculate. You can watch it here. It happens at the 4:35 mark and it's awesome.]
Now look at our roster, and please explain to me why we just broke the .500 mark after 7 prior attempts. The team's defense is stellar of late, but how likely is it that Don Newman is the guy responsible for that, not Randy? Conventional rules of fairness say you should give a guy credit when things are going well just as you blame him when things are going poorly, but Randy's career coaching record as of today is .353. This is by far his best season ever. Ever. And we're only at .511. Stew on that for a moment.
While I'm obviously happy with seeing this team win, part of me worries that the net result is going to be a new contract for Randy, regardless of what happens in the playoffs. And that would be the wrong way to run a team for so many reasons. This is an attractive job for an elite coaching candidate. Young All Star PG, young potential All Star SG, seasoned professional veterans, zero headcases, a weak conference, a big market/interesting city, owner that (allegedly) wants to spend, good facilities, and a decent salary cap situation. A guy like George Karl would probably take this job in a heartbeat, as would Lionel Hollins, Jerry Sloan, the Van Gundy brother of your choosing, or even Nate McMillan. All are more accomplished than the often clueless, Tom Bergeron-looking guy currently on the bench.
But this is The Wizards after all. We'll finish with the 6th seed, lose a 6 game series to Toronto, and Teddy will quickly resign Randy (and Ernie) to new multiyear deals.