Wizards Win Series 4-1. Move on to Eastern Conference Finals.
That’s what today’s headline should read. It doesn’t because of Randy Wittman.
Randy Scott Wittman might be a good man. He might be a good father, a good husband, or even a good selector of deli sandwiches.
He could also be a terrible human being with nary a hint of redeemable attributes.
Whatever he is, these opinions are open to interpretation for those distanced from his inner circle.
What’s not open to interpretation is the egregious mental deficiency with which he manages the Washington Wizards basketball team.
Wittman has been on the hot seat of every fan and analyst this season, and for good reason. His player rotations are approaching something of legend in the District of Columbia. Not legendary in the sense of some heroic deed undertaken to save a populous in need. No, his legend is similar to that of Sisyphus in Greek mythology.
Sisyphus was smart, but foolishly thought his cleverness surpassed the mighty Zeus. When his hubris finally got the best of him, he was dragged to the underworld for an eternity of punishment. To this day, there he remains, rolling a heavy boulder up a steep hill just to watch it roll back down, proceeding eternally to do it all over again.
The Wizards are Randy Wittman’s boulder. Sure, his talent-sabotaging rotations are just good enough to sputter on fumes into a postseason berth, but once reaching a plateau of respectability, he lets them roll back down that steep incline that is mediocrity.
Owner Ted Leonsis thinks he has a good team with Wittman plotting the course. Everyone else in D.C. knows that Ted has a good team despite Wittman’s distorted navigation.
This is a man that has inexplicably fallen in love with Garrett Temple throughout the course of the season.
This is a coach who took approximately 80 games this season to realize that he has a kid named Otto Porter who can sort of play a little ball. Witnessing Otto’s emergence has been wonderful, but how sooner could fans have been enjoying his talents instead of the Temple of Doom if Wittman wasn’t at the helm?
The 2014-15 season revealed a bevy of head-scratching rotation moves that have unacceptably become the norm. What is the most ridiculous substitution or lack thereof that you could think of? Don’t worry, Randy’s got you covered.
Throughout the second round series with the Atlanta Hawks, Wittman has been at it again.
In Game 2, Nene had one of the worst games an NBA player has ever had. His feet were moving like cinderblocks. His post moves resembled a giraffe learning to stand for the first time. He turned the ball over. He missed layups. He left opposing players so open that they could have read A Tale of Two Cities twice and still have gotten an uncontested shot off.
It was what a plumber might look like playing in an NBA game after having about 18 beers. But Nene didn’t cost the Wizards a chance to take the first two games of the series in Atlanta. Randy Wittman did.
Helen Keller would have seen that Nene was having a terrible night. Instead, Randy left him in.
In Game 4, it was much of the same. This time, the culprit was Marcin Gortat. Doing his best Game 2 Nene impression, Gortat went just 1-7 from the field for a whopping 3 points with no assists, no blocks, and four fouls. Once again, though, Wittman made no adjustments.
Was Game 5 any different? Why would it be? In an equally mind-boggling rotation decision, Wittman kept Gortat off the floor during the last critical defensive sequence, leaving Nene in instead.
Everyone knows how that went. Ball in Nene’s hands. Then somehow not. Nene falls awkwardly, looking more like Al Horford’s bullying victim than a professional athlete.
Once again, this is the same coach who didn’t play Gortat for a single second of the fourth quarter during a 114-107 loss to Golden State on February 24, a game in which Gortat had 16 points and 11 rebounds when the third quarter ended.
What was Wittman’s response when questioned about that February 24 decision to bench the big Polish center when he was having a terrific game?
Your coach, ladies and gentlemen.
Wizards have now played 91 total games this season. How many of those have been drowned by humiliating decision-making on the part of their "leader"?
Where has Kris Humphries been? Did he make a pass at Randy’s wife? Did he contract leprosy? No, Randy has just forgotten that he exists as a cellular and molecular organism.
Inserting guys like Humphries or Seraphin might make a difference. It could also make no difference at all. Unfortunately, no one will ever know what type of impact they could have, even when the players ahead of them are having the worst games of their lives.
Randy Wittman deserves credit for helping transform the Wizards from a mountain of sadness into moveable boulder. He had to take over a woeful team and work with comedians like Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man Jan Vesely. Anyone can feel for someone with grotesque misfortunes such as those.
His mental coaching capacity, however, reached its pinnacle last year. Success this year has been in spite of him in many ways, while the failures of this season could often be directly attributed to him.
Changing coaches has worked pretty well out in Golden State. They recognized that Mark Jackson, while getting them turned in the right direction, wasn’t the guy to get them to their final destination.
Ted Leonsis is loyal and patient to a fault. He might never realize the current state of the Wizards, but if he finally notices the obvious, he’ll have to sever ties.
Randy can push the Wizards up the hill, but if this franchise ever wants to see the other side, he’s got to go.