Introducing the newest featured column on Wizards Extreme: "The Starting 5"!
Every week we will feature 5 burning questions and their answers pertaining directly to the Washington Wizards and the current state they are in. This post is very similar to ESPN's "5-on-5". This week Abby, Saam, Mike, Trevor and Chuck tackle questions surrounding the recent firing of coach Flip Saunders. Check it out!
1. How do you feel about the firing of Flip Saunders?
ABBY: Overdue. The team had lost all sense of direction early in the season and their winless record through 10 games proved that. Flip is a very respected basketball coach and a very well-rounded individual and you hate to see a good man lose his job. However, the fact is that the team had slipped completely out of his control. The players lacked in areas that are hard to coach, e.g. hustle, energy and effort and a change in leadership was imminent.
TREVOR: I feel like it was only a matter of time. Flip had to go as he was just not the right fit for this team. He was hired to help a veteran team get past the first round in the playoffs, and once that team was blown up, he has been ineffective as a coach. When they players are not responding and you are not getting solid effort night in and night out, changes have to be made. The Wizards made the right move. I wish Flip success in the future, and hope he doesn't have to ever coach a team like this Wizards unit again.
MIKE: I'm not 100% on board with the firing but I understand the reasoning. Something has to be done when a team goes 2-15. I feel Grunfeld should have gone first, but who knows, maybe he will be next. I feel bad for Flip because I don't think he realized what he had on his hands when he took the job but it's a cut-throat business, and for Leonsis not to do anything for much longer would have looked awful for the franchise.
CHUCK: Is it Christmas again?!?! I’m tickled pink, giddy even. This was long overdue. You could see it on Flip’s face and on the player’s faces, this was not a happy marriage. By all accounts, Flip Saunders is a good coach and an all around good guy. He was never the right fit for this team and there was no sense of postponing the inevitable. I wish Flip the best in his future endeavors but it was time for him to go.
SAAM: I think the firing was justified but I don't understand why we had to wait this long? clearly the guy was brought in to coach and lead our big 3 to an eastern conference title and once that broke down, we continued to give him opportunities. I understand not firing him because of financial obligations and contracts, but at what point was money an issue in the past? When we gave Gil and Andray those contracts? or when we decided to give away Ricky Rubio for Randy Foye and Mike Miller? I just don't understand the logic. It all goes back to the GM
2. What do you think about interim coach Randy Wittman?
ABBY: Unsure. His overall head coaching record is almost as dismal as Flip’s in DC (33% win pct), not to mention he’s been Flip’s right hand man since Minnesota. It’s almost like we’re replacing with the same guy. With Wittman as the interim coach for the rest of the season, I’m not very certain a substantial amount of change will occur with these players.
TREVOR: I liked the rotations I have seen out of Wittman, especially when he subbed for Flip against Boston when Saunders was ejected within the first 2 minutes. He played the guys who legitimately wanted to be out there and played hard. He also didn't leave me scratching my head by pulling out the hot player, or making subs that didn't make any sense at the time. He may be alright as a short term replacement, but will have to motivate this group better then Flip did. Looking at Wittman's track record, he has been rather unproductive as a coach in the NBA. Wittman is not the answer for this team.
MIKE: During the few times that Flip has been ejected, Wittman has handled the team well. I think he could work as the interim coach, but would rather see someone younger take over the gig as the players, themselves, are young. Whitman definitely has the capability to coach, but I would give him a few weeks, and if he doesn't work out, then Ted needs to shake things up, again.
CHUCK: I agree with the move of letting Flip go, however I disagree with replacing him with his 2nd in command. If the players tuned out the head coach, I’m left to wonder how his right hand man get through to them. Randy hasn’t had much success as a head coach in the NBA, two unsuccessful stints with the Cavaliers and Timberwolves. Not much to be excited about here but as bad as the team has played under Flip, it can only get better.
SAAM: I think a new head voice in the locker can change the team's overall effort but the main problem here is not the coach or coaches, it's the personnel that is assembled. I think with a 2-15 team, you can't get much worse but I don't think Randy Wittman is going to lead this team to a better record that they would've had under Flip Saunders simply because this team does not have the proper personnel.
3. Who would you like to see as the new coach?
ABBY: Not any particular names I’m crazy about, but I would love to see a young players coach. A guy who has a lot of energy and fire, something he can naturally transpose over to the players. Of course, Sam Cassell has been on everyone’s radar. He would be the perfect "quick fix". He’s in-house so there is plenty of familiarity with the players. He’s a winner and most important, he’s got the admiration of his star player, John Wall.
TREVOR: This team needs to do it's homework on this choice. What Washington needs is a defensive minded, young, disciplinarian coach. Motivation and development should be key when searching for the long term replacement. My choice for our new coach - Chris Finch. Don't give me credit for doing the homework on Finch, as one of our member's Nighthawk came up with his name in prior discussion of replacement. Chris Finch is currently an assistant with the Houston Rockets, and won the D-Leauge Coach of the Year award in 2009. He has head coaching experience, and fits the mold of a young, defensive coach that I feel is necessary for the Wizards.
MIKE: I, personally, would like to see Sam Cassell take over the duties, at least through the rest of the season. He's still borderline "fresh" out of the NBA. The players are going to listen to him more than someone like Whitman or the other assistants. When you see players in warmups, it's Cassell that they are working with. He seems to have a good grasp on the team and is who I feel will make the better difference with this team.
CHUCK: There a few names that come to mind, the name that jumps out at me is Jeff Van Gundy. Although it seems he has no desire to leave the announcers table, especially for the Wizards job. I think he would be the perfect hardnosed disciplinarian this team needs. I also, think this is a perfect situation for Larry Brown, rebuilding teams and getting the most out of underachieving young players is what he does best. Another surprising candidate would be Sam Mitchell, former coach of the Toronto Raptors. He took an awful Raptors team to back to back playoffs.
SAAM: I don't know the exact candidates available at this time, maybe the best solution is Randy Wittman. Who knows? i certainly hope that the solution to the problem already is rooted within the organization but I would like to see a younger guy come in and grow with the young nucleus. Maybe the team needs to start looking in the college ranks.
4. How does this affect the team, specifically John Wall?
ABBY: Better that it was done sooner than later. As I mentioned in the first question, the firing of Flip was overdue. The team was lost in transit during their initial skid when they started 0-9. Wall has been trying to pick up the pieces but it’s backfired. This may have saved Wall from further regression.
TREVOR: My hope is that this move results in the team running and pushing the tempo more, and also playing the younger guys more minutes over the veterans. The Wizards are young enough and certainly athletic enough to get out and run, and try and beat teams off the fast break as opposed to the half court sets. In regards to John Wall, he has been playing very well over the past couple weeks, carrying averages of 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists over the past 6 games. If the team switches to a more up tempo approach, Wall should only benefit as he has proven to be one of the quicker guards in the league.
MIKE: The team is either going to play extremely well tomorrow or be a bust versus Charlotte. (Brilliant analysis, I know). As for John Wall, I feel like he stopped listening to Flip. They seemed to butt heads a little too much for my liking and I think a coaching change is going to help his game as some new insight may be able to convince him to keep driving like he's been doing the past couple of games.
CHUCK: The team completely tuned Flip out. This is evident to anyone who watched a game this year. I think the division amongst the team has impacted John’s development and it was clear that he and Flip weren’t on the same page. Hopefully this provides a spark for the team and John flips a switch, pun intended.
SAAM: I personally don't think John Wall will be affected in a negative way. The guy has been playing well as of late and has reminded fans why he was taken #1 overall. If it does anything, it might take the pressure a little off of his shoulder and actually allow John to play more freely. The person I'm most interested in seeing how this affects is Andray Blatche. Here's a guy that couldn't get on Flip's good side so maybe with a new coach, he'll be a little more motivated and play more within his strengths.
5. Do you think anyone else follows Flip out of the door?
ABBY: When you’re 2-15, whether it’s upper management, a coach or a player, no one’s job is safe. Many have subliminally put blame on GM Ernie Grunfeld for Flip’s firing, stating that Flip was a scapegoat for a poorly constructed team, . If other members of upper management feel the same way, then yes, there could very well be more changes to come.
TREVOR: I believe changes need to start at the top. Ernie Grunfeld should be the next person out the door. He is the one who assembled the "veteran" team that Flip was hired to coach....and then had to blow it up. He has assembled this current team which is dead last in the NBA. He doesn't deserve another opportunity to start over. I don't see Grunfeld lasting too much longer. The other move I see happening is the Wizards ridding themselves of Andray Blatche. The fans have now turned on him, and it would be in the best interest of both parties for them to part ways. Hopefully this move will be made by a new General Manager.
MIKE: I think Grunfeld is close to getting his pink slip, as well. But not until the end of the season. In my opinion, he has one more trade deadline to show the fans that he is even borderline capable of managing a team. He has done nothing thus far that I, personally, have approved of, but I'm willing to give him one last shot with this trade deadline. I feel it would be a bit more difficult to fire a GM mid-season than to fire a coach.
CHUCK: Did anyone mention Ernie Grunfeld? Lol. Ernie has to go. Wizard’s fans have had enough of Ernie’s follies. Such as giving Gilbert Arenas a max contract after two knee surgeries, extending Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche. Speaking of Blatche, the fans have spoken and continue to speak every time he touches the ball and the language is Booooo. So Blatche must go as well. While we’re at it anybody who doesn’t bust their butt every night should be shown the door.
SAAM: I don't like to see coaches go down this way, especially when things weren't their fault, however I think it's best that a whole new coaching staff comes in all together moving forward. This team needs new voice(s) and a new system in place that plays more to this teams strengths.
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