Let me start off by saying one thing: Scott Brooks is a good coach. I thought he got an extremely unfair reputation in Oklahoma City, one that I bought into at one point. He is a coach that players love to play for, and one that puts his young guys in the best positions to succeed. Even if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook helped him along the way, that OKC team came to play every night, everyone knew their role and were utilized to their individual strengths, something you couldn't always say about the coaching staff in Washington for the last 4 years. I will be rooting for him to succeed and truly believe he can succeed with the right roster and coaching staff around him.
However, the reports that the Wizards made him their "top priority", as well as the fact that every candidate they'd been linked to aside from Brooks had previous coaching experience (other than former Wizards assistant Sam Cassell), highlights issues that have existed within the organization ever since Ernie Grunfeld took over in 2003. Instead of doing a proper coaching search, surveying all of their options, and keeping in mind they are a fairly attractive destination that will get consideration from all types of coaches, the Wizards imposed unnecessary restrictions on themselves and were, to make a shooting metaphor, aiming their shot instead of letting it fly.
Now, it is possible that the decision to fire Randy Wittman was made well before the season ended and the Wizards did their due diligence with several candidates already. However, given their previous history, I'm not sure we should give them the benefit of the doubt here. Most Wizards fans will remember it was clear from the beginning Flip Saunders was the Wizards' guy from the get-go when they hired him in 2009.
When they moved on from Saunders in 2012, they opted to take a similar approach in the search that led them to remove the interim tag from Randy Wittman, according to Adrian Wojnarowski:
The Wizards won't make a significant financial commitment to Wittman, sources said, and that's a trend that more franchises are expected to continue. After the NBA lockout, many owners are determined to pay front-office and coaching staffs less money. The Wizards are a big-market team that could've successfully competed for higher-profile head coaches available, including Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan and Stan Van Gundy, but chose to keep Wittman on a shorter, less expensive contract.
The organization ultimately never went outside to conduct interviews with potential candidates.
When you consider Brooks' past track record and ties to a certain D.C.-born superstar, it shouldn't come as a surprise the Wizards once again conducted a one candidate search in 2016, according to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, who wasn't in his office Wednesday as he traveled out West to meet the ex-Oklahoma City Thunder coach, has had a laser-like focus to bring in Brooks.
In fact, CSN was told earlier in the day, that face-to-face meetings with the Wizards and other coaching candidates haven't happened because they've locked in on Brooks from the outset.
The Wizards' criteria for their next coach was clear immediately, in conversations CSN had with persons with knowledge of the situation on the night Wittman was fired: Head-coaching experience and a track record of success, ability to connect with the locker room especially younger players such as John Wall and Bradley Beal, merging a potent offensive attack without sacrificing defense and a selling point for Durant who will become a free agent this summer.
Restricting a coaching search to experienced candidates makes no sense. There is no evidence that coaching experience has any significant effect on a team's win percentage in the short or long term. Whether the coach is a retread or a newbie is irrelevant, what matters is whether or not they are going to be the right fit for your team. That's why a coaching search needs to consider all options whether the candidates are retreads, college coaches, or assistants to get a complete picture.
We've seen the same thing unfold with how the team approaches signing players. Last summer, Washington restricted themselves to players who would sign one-year deals and looked for players based on the roles they needed to fill, instead of trying to find players who could raise the overall talent level on the team. Even though you could argue some of the signings worked out okay, the process matters more than the results, and the same suboptimal processes that have guided the past three coaching searches will guide the Wizards as they hit free agent market this summer with money to spend.
This franchise has a shown a long pattern of lacking the innovativeness and rigor required to be a consistently successful team in the modern NBA. The explicit targeting of Scott Brooks and the nonsensical limitation of "experience" are signs of a front office that's rigid and uncreative with their evaluation and selection processes. Perhaps Brooks is the coach this team needs, and the fact that they were willing to pay up to get their guy, unlike their prior search, should indicate that they really do believe he will bring out the best in this roster. But whether or not that is the case, the process in which he has been hired is still, in my mind, reflective of the problems which have plagued this franchise for the past 13 seasons.