Cleveland was the third NBA team to let go of a head coach in the 2015-16 season after the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale in November and the Brooklyn Nets fired Lionel Hollins earlier this month. Two of the three teams (Cleveland and Houston) are in playoff position. The Nets are one of the Eastern Conference's worst teams and in need of a rebuild.
More Wizards Reads
More Wizards Reads
The Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and have underachieved, even in light of their injury woes. Though the worst of the tough schedule may be coming to an end, the Wizards have also dug themselves very deep into the Kevin Durant race for this summer.
The Wizards have done so by surrounding John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter with veterans on expiring contracts. They are also going to extremes to maximize their cap space this summer by not giving Bradley Beal a sophomore extension until Durant or other free agents make their decisions.
If Blatt's firing sends a message on the KD2DC situation, it is that the Wizards need to make sure that the head coach is someone who John Wall and Durant will accept. That apparently never happened in Cleveland in 2014 according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski when Blatt was hired. James and his management weren't happy about it and apparently made life "hell" for the front office until Blatt was shown the door, despite Cleveland's 30-11 record.
I can't definitively answer that Wall and/or Durant do not respect, dislike, or would not want Wittman to coach them for the next several years.
But for the purposes of discussion on this snowy Saturday, let's assume that the Wizards are set on hiring a new head coach for the 2016-17 head coach. Let's go through some possible names.
Former NBA head coaches
If the Wizards move in another direction, my hunch tells me that they will likely hiring someone with previous expereince as an NBA team head coach. A list of those coaches are below.
David Blatt, former Cavaliers HC - To his credit, Blatt has played a major part leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2007. He is one of the top professional basketball coaches in any market.
In my opinion, he deserves another NBA head coaching job. However, since Wall is hiring James' agent, that alone is a reason NOT to hire him. After all, Rich Paul is part of the reason why Blatt is gone.
The Wizards are also a veteran team and will need a stronger-minded coach to lead them than what Blatt has shown, even if his circumstances were a bit unfair. I just feel more secure with a head coach with considerable NBA coaching experience. Blatt never had that until he came to Cleveland.
Wiz of Awe's Ben Mehic also has more on why Blatt is not the answer for Washington.
Scott Brooks, former Thunder HC - Brooks coached the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-2015 where he led them. four consecutive Northwest Division titles from 2011 to 2014, an appearance in the 2012 NBA Finals, and three Western Conference Finals appearances in the last five seasons.
He is currently spending the 2015-16 season by taking a break to recharge his batteries, and should be someone the Wizards keep an eye on if they are moving in another direction with the head coaching position for next season. Since he has worked well with Durant, he won't have to deal with a Blatt-like situation.
Mike D'Antoni, 76ers Associate HC - D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000's were high-powered offensive units. Things fizzled in his later trips to the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers, so that has hurt his stock some as a head coach. I wouldn't mind giving him a shot in D.C. given how well his offense has worked over the years.
Lionel Hollins, former Nets HC - Hollins may have recently been let go, but he has played a major part maximizing the abilities of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2009-2013 which culminated in a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2013. He is perceived as an analytics skeptic however, which doesn't go in line with ownership's philosophy.
Mark Jackson, former Warriors HC - Jackson led Golden State from 2011-14 where he oversaw the turnaround of the team from a perennial lottery doormat to a team on the cusp of being a legitimate contender. I certainly would be open to the former NBA point guard coaching the Wizards, but his past clashes with the Warriors' ownership also give cause to pause.
That said, LeBron's -- and Wall's soon-to-be -- management wanted Jackson to be a head coach. So if Wall wants Jackson especially, it may happen more easily than you think.
Tom Thibodeau, former Bulls HC - Like Wittman, Thibodeau is a defense-first coach, and he gets the most out of his players. However, his starting players have played a high number of minutes. Considering that players like Bradley Beal may have to be on a minutes restriction for long stretches of time, I'm hesitant to see him in Washington.
This is a list of some assistant coaches who have never been an NBA head coach. However, they are coaches who could be leading NBA teams sooner rather than later.
Luke Walton, Warriors Assistant - Walton will be one of the hottest candidates to interview for NBA head coaching positions because he led Golden State to a franchise-best start this season when head coach Steve Kerr was out due to back surgery.
Walton is a long-time NBA player himself who is still the age of an older NBA veteran, so he can relate with players right now. Hell, he's younger than some active NBA players. Either way, he will have the players' respect the moment he's hired, whether in D.C. or elsewhere.
Ettore Messina, Spurs Assistant - Of the assistants on the Spurs' lineup, Messina is the most accomplished. He is a long-time head coach in the EuroLeague, where he won four titles with Kinder Bologna (1998, 2001), and CSKA Moscow (2006, 2008).
Blatt's background as a EuroLeague head coach certainly makes Messina a less desirable candidate on the surface. However, it's also clear that Blatt was never given actual job security because James' management never wanted him there in the first place.
Sam Cassell, Clippers Assistant - Cassell, a former Wizards assistan, has been credited for playing a major role in John Wall and Bradley Beal's development. He also influenced Paul Pierce to sign with Washington as a free agent. I'm tempted to consider him more than most of the other coaches on the list.
College Coaches and outside the box hires
The best college basketball coaches and coaches from non-NBA leagues are often mentioned as possible replacements for NBA vacancies. In light of that, we have a quick list:
And Even More Reads
And Even More Reads
John Calipari, Kentucky HC - Calipari seems to be in these NBA rumors every year. In Washington, he would be reunited with the point guard who started the current era of Wildcat basketball, and there's something to be said for that.
Ultimately, I'm not banking on Calipari coming to D.C. because he is rumored to want a 10-year, $120 million deal to coach the Brooklyn Nets. In addition, coaching grown men is not the same as coaching and recruiting teenagers.
Kevin Ollie, UConn HC - Ollie is a former long-time NBA player who spent over a decade on many teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder. During his stint there, he served as a mentor to a young Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and James Harden.
At UConn, he led the Huskies to the National Championship in 2014, just one year after they were banned from the tourney due to academic sanctions. For more reading, I'll defer to jeffco01's FanPost last season. I like Ollie, but I think he's very happy with his dream job. It will be tough to pry him away from Storrs.
Mike Thibault, Mystics GM/HC - If you ask me who has the best basketball mind at Monumental Sports, I will say it's Thibault. He is the best head coach in the WNBA, considering that he gets teams to overachieve their perceived talent level for well over a decade. He is also an analytics-friendly coach, which goes in line with ownership's ambitions.
Thibault is also a long-time NBA assistant coach and scout, where he was with the Lakers and Bulls during Magic Johnson's and Michael Jordan's early years, respectively. He also was on George Karl's staff with the Sonics and Bucks in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
He may have ties with Ernie Grunfeld, the much-maligned Wizards President of Basketball Operations, who was the Bucks' GM in the early 2000's. But Thibault is not a complacent basketball executive and he is more than capable of being an NBA head coach.
If Wittman isn't the answer for the Wizards long-term, when should they let him go?
I believe the Wizards that should fire Wittman quickly -- even midseason -- if they do not believe he will be the head coach moving forward. However, Grunfeld is also on the last year of his contract (I think).
If Ted Leonsis isn't totally pleased with Grunfeld's performance over the last couple seasons, then it may make more sense to make a change there first before deciding which coaches on this list could be a good fit moving forward.
Despite what the media says about Wittman's midseason job security, he will be coaching the Wizards for the rest of the regular season, and hopefully the playoffs after that. But once the NBA offseason begins, Washington may very well be looking at some of the coaches on this list.
If the Wizards terminate Wittman midseason or choose not to renew his contract this summer, who would be on your short list as the next head coach? Let us know in the comments below.