The transition from Randy Wittman to Scott Brooks was handled in a very professional manner. Shortly after the Wizards' final game of the season, the team let Wittman know they would not bring him back next season, he released a very nice statement thanking the team for the good times, the Wiz moved quickly to find a new coach, and agreed to terms with Scott Brooks just over a week later.
In today's day and age, this is the way workplace transitions should be handled. But what if they weren't? What if coaches had to earn their living the old-fashioned way, by challenging current head coaches to one-on-one battles on the court, with the winner taking the job? How would it have shaped the Wizards' recent coaching transition? We decided to find out.
The Simulation Process
We used NBA 2K16 to simulate a one-on-one battle between Scott Brooks and Randy Wittman. Thankfully, both players are already in the game as players through the legend rosters. Wittman is on the 86-87 Hawks, Brooks is on the 93-94 Rockets.
Of course in that game they're both in their athletic primes. To accurately depict how they'd play in 2016, we adjusted their athletic capabilities to accurately reflect that they're both now in their fifties.
As such, we reduced all their athletic attributes to 25, the lowest rating 2K offers. All other attributes remained the same. They still have the same skills and instincts they once had as players, now they just lack the physical capacity to do it at a high level -- it's just like what happened to Michael Jordan on the Wizards, but not as cruel because it's just virtual reality and not something we had to watch in real life for two years.
For the game, we used NBA 2K's Blacktop Mode. It's a halfcourt game, because you know guys that old aren't going to ask to play full court. Shots inside the arc count for 1 point, outside the arc they count for 2. First one to 11 wins, but they have to win by at least two points.
There's also a 40 second shot clock for each possession. If a player is fouled while shooting, the player gets the ball up top and the shot clock resets.
The beautiful thing about NBA 2K is that really does simulate basketball quite well. They didn't need to make a special YMCA version of the game to accommodate this hypothetical. Simply adjusting the sliders turned this into the game you'd expect to see between two sweaty, old white guys trying to prove they've still got it.
As you'd expect, the big guy (Wittman) tried to back his man down as much as he could before busting out a fancy post move once he got as close in as he could. This was literally the first possession of the game:
Brooks, on the other hand, had to rely on his ball handling to create space. Watch Brooks channel his inner-Iverson on the ensuing possession:
If it looks like might turn out to be an exciting, high-octane game based on those first possessions, you'd be wrong. Remember, these guys are old, so they fatigue quickly. As the possessions start to add up, you start to see a lot less of stuff that made them useful NBA players and a lot more of what would make them call timeouts as coaches. After all, it's ISO-heavy, hero ball on every possession, but with two men who should never be asked to do it as a form of entertainment for other humans.
Wittman slowly muscled his way out to a 4-1 lead. He was able to get inside more consistently than Brooks, who struggled to shake his way past Wittman's wingspan and was hesitant to shoot over him.
Down by 3, it looked like things were about to go from bad to worse for Brooks when Wittman forced him to pick up his dribble at the elbow with 19 seconds left on the shot clock. This led to an awkward dance as Brooks tried to find a way to create a shot, since he couldn't pass it, and couldn't do anything other than pivot. It got weird.
With Wittman covering him like a blanket, and no one to pass it to, Brooks needed a miracle. He got it.
Brooks rode the momentum from his big shot the next he got the ball, and made Wittman look silly as he drove to the basket and made it a 1 point game:
After that, things started to calm down again. Now that they had both burned through their second winds, it got back to being an ugly slog of a game as they slowly traded baskets with each other, with plenty of fouls and missed shots in between.
That said, Wittman continued to ensure Brooks never got the satisfaction of tying him through the middle of the game. Every time Brooks tried to tie it, he came through with a clutch, midrange bucket to extend the lead or a solid foul on Brooks when he'd get close to making a layup. He also took advantage of one defensive lapse from Brooks to get an easy point:
Brooks needed another miracle after that lapse to have a shot at keeping it close. Once again, he got it:
Brooks is like a smaller, older, much lamer version of Kobe Bryant in this game. Now, he just needed to force a miss on the other end to get a chance to knot things up a 9 and clear a major psychological hurdle. He wound up forcing the miss, but forgot one key thing:
Looks like Brooks' analytics didn't account for Wittman's hustle on the glass, but the scoreboard did as Randy took a 10-8 lead.
Wittman now only needed 1 point to claim victory, but he still had to make sure Brooks didn't get two more points to force OT. He succeeded in forcing himinto a miss on his first shot attempt, but the chase for the loose ball after the miss got hectic. It's a shock neither player pulled a hammy bending down to grab this 50-50 ball.
Eventually, Wittman snagged the ball to claim possession. With the game on the line, he went to his most trusted play call to try to seal the win: A post-up to create a fadeaway, midrange jumper with a man in his face:
Fittingly, Wittman found a way to make the most of an inopportune situation he thrust himself into and came through with a victory when most people wrote him off. But in a move that broke character, Wittman gave Brooks the KISS OF DEATH as the ball went through the net.
He may be unemployed right now, but he's still unbroken and he's still undefeated.