As was the case two years ago, the main selling point for extending Randy Wittman revolves around comfort. The players support him, and expressed that support during their exit interviews with Ted Leonsis, which ultimately green-lit the move to bring the head coach back on a new three-year deal.
In 2012, that support was enough. The franchise needed someone to usher in a culture change, and at the time didn't need to look past their interim head coach. Wittman got on his players and preached accountability, all without knowing what his future with the team entailed. Two years later, he's leading the franchise to their first second-round playoff appearance in nine years.
But is support really enough to justify a three-year deal this time around?
We've seen what a lack of continuity at the head coaching spot can do to franchise players. Kyrie Irving is headed for his third head coach in four seasons, and has yet to pick up the nuances of team defense. Meanwhile under Wittman, the Wizards have turned in a top-10 defense for the second year in a row. While John Wall and Bradley Beal are far from finished products on that end, they've shown marked improvements this season (Beal particularly in the postseason).
But that's all Randy can really hang his hat on in terms of player development. Kevin Seraphin hasn't gotten better since that brief stretch of good play at the end of the 2012 season when WIttman took over, and the team has already jettisoned the likes of Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack. Chris Singleton's contract is up and is a sure thing to leave. Trevor Booker, who improved slightly but is still the same player fundamentally, and Seraphin both have qualifying offers the team may renounce in order to free up cap space.
So now, all eyes are on Otto Porter, who essentially redshirted this season behind Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. He was brought in as the small forward of the future, but in order to get there, he has to crack the rotation first.
This front office has searched high and low for ways to conceal their draft whiffs. They scoured the free agency scrap heap to bring in the likes of Al Harrington and Drew Gooden. They severed ties with the sixth pick of the 2011 draft in order to acquire a 38-year-old point guard on the edge of retirement.
But now they're stuck with Porter. They have more pressing needs in the frontcourt this offseason, are without a first round draft pick and Porter's trade value is nearing rock bottom. Sure, they can bring Ariza back, which unquestionably pencils him in as the starter, but there's always room in the backcourt behind Bradley Beal. As Sam Cassell admitted in Summer League last year, both wing positions are interchangeable in this offense, and the Wizards constantly had Otto vacillating between both spots before he went down with a hamstring injury.
A lot of this hinges on what Otto does in this offseason. He has summer league to prove himself to the coaches, but beyond that, he has to tailor his game to fit Wittman's system. Mastering the corner three should be priority number one, two, and three, and if he can't make the most out of his catch-and-shoot opportunities, he'll never see the floor.
But what happens if he starts the season off cold or doesn't develop accordingly? Wittman could play the rookie card all he wanted last season, but now he has to balance fighting for playoff seeding while getting the most out of Otto, given that the team invested a very high draft pick in him. That's something he's yet to accomplish as a head coach. There's not one non-star player you can point to and say Wittman developed him. (Perhaps Andre Miller way back in Cleveland, but that's about it). He's still the guy who told Kevin Love not to shoot threes and the guy who hasn't lasted at one stop for more than three years up until now.
This is his chance to finally do it. The bar isn't set as high as it was for Wall or Beal, nor is Porter as good a prospect. He's rail-thin for an NBA wing, but is a staunch defender that positions himself extremely well, and with his near 7'2" wing span, has the ability to wreak havoc on the wings.
Washington absolutely needs him to pan out, and after signing a new deal, Randy Wittman has to be ready to make the most out of their investment.