6 Head Coaching Replacements for Woeful Washington Wizards' Randy Wittman
Washington Wizards' Randy Wittman has a reputation of being a terrible head coach in the NBA. Not only has he never finished three complete seasons as a head coach, he's only won more than 35 percent of his games twice in seven different seasons in the league.
At some point, teams are going to stop hiring this guy, but for now it seems that he's the go-to guy to coach a terrible team and fire a few weeks later.
Aside from that, he doesn't seem to have any idea what he's saying when he talks to the media. In one interview he dropped two beautiful quotes.
First he quipped on his team's inconsistency, "I'm looking down the whole roster, and if I had a cell phone I'd be calling the waiver wire trying to find another body. I mean, I'm just searching right now -- searching for people to give me consistency” (h/t Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com).
Two things strike me about that quote. First, does Randy Wittman legitimately not own a cell phone? Is that even possible for an NBA head coach? Second, I'd say the Wizards have been pretty consistent this year. Every time they step on the floor you know exactly what you're going to get from them.
Then he came out with, “These guys can win. I don't have any doubts of it. I come in here every day thinking this is the night. I feel good. I might be dumb, but I believe in them. I really do” (via Rich Dubroff of NBA.com). If he thinks his team is going to play well without Nene Hilario and John Wall then he may legitimately be dumb.
Regardless of his terrific rapport with the media, we've got to assume a guy who starts out 0-9 is going to get fired sooner rather than later, so let's take a look at some of the guys who could possibly replace him.
The Guys Who Aren't Coming
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We've got to get a few names out of the way before we start talking about anybody taking over for Randy Wittman.
First of all, Phil Jackson isn't going to be coming back to coach any team unless he can get back at Jim Buss and the Lakers in doing so. I don't see him coming back at all at this point, but he's definitely not coming back to coach the Wizards to a lottery berth.
Next we can rule out Stan Van Gundy, who seems keen to stick with his possibly temporary, possibly permanent job with NBC commentating college basketball. If he comes back to coaching this season, I'd be rather surprised.
The last guy I would want to rule out would have to be Jerry Sloan. He was talked about a bit in the Lakers' coaching search, and I don't think it would necessarily be that Sloan would turn the Wizards down, just that he's gotten a bit old to come in and grab a team midseason.
6. Nate McMillan
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Nate McMillan is probably the best coaching candidate on this list, but also just on this side of unlikely.
There has been chatter about McMillan joining Mike D'Antoni in Los Angeles as an assistant after the two coached together over the summer with Team USA, but now it seems more likely that D'Antoni is going to keep the coaching staff in tact in L.A.
With the Lakers job no longer an option and McMillan being in the same place he was after the Olympics ended, you've got to imagine that he's got the same mentality he had after being fired by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Not only did McMillan sound like he wanted to coach again in the NBA sooner rather than later, he seemed as if he were dying to get back on the sidelines.
As far as head coaches go, Washington could get one a heck of a lot worse than McMillan.
5. Eric Musselman
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Eric Musselman hasn't been in the NBA since he coached the Sacramento Kings back in 2007, but he's coached nearly everywhere else since then.
Musselman has coached the Dominican and Venezuelan National Basketball Teams, Dominican in 2010 and Venzuelan in 2011 and 2012 where he did very well. Between his international coaching, Musselman was the head coach of both the Reno Bighorns and the Los Angeles D-Fenders, two NBAD League teams.
The point behind Musselman isn't that he's an amazing coach (he's never really been given a chance with a good team), but he's good at getting the most out of a less-than-stellar roster.
He's currently an assistant coach at Arizona State, but given a shot at another NBA head coaching gig, I'm sure he's at least thinking about an interview.
4. Larry Brown
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Larry Brown is well-known for looking at other head coaching jobs while he's in the lead chair, so I'm sure he'd be willing to skirt his duties at SMU if it meant he got another shot at coaching in the NBA.
Brown is a guy made for coaching, and whether he's been an honorable guy or not in his time in the NBA (that dishonorable reputation has to be playing a part in keeping him out of the league), it's impossible to say that he's been a bad coach.
He is, after all, not only the guy who won a championship in both the NBA and the NCAA, but took the Charlotte Bobcats to the playoffs in 2010. The fact that he was willing to coach the Bobcats was surprising enough, but succeeding there was pretty amazing.
3. Mike Dunleavy
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Mike Dunleavy Sr. heard his name come up in the Lakers' coaching search that landed them Mike D'Antoni, but it seemed that he was a distant plan C if he was ever anything.
He's one of only three guys to land an interview for the gig after D'Antoni and Phil Jackson, so there's something to be said about him there.
It's a name that makes people cringe after he had a huge hand in running the Los Angeles Clippers into the ground, but a lot of us forget that he was not only the head coach of the Lakers in 1991 when they went to the NBA Finals, but also the head coach of seven different playoff teams.
I'm not sure whether he was interested in only the Lakers' job or returning to the NBA in general, but it's obvious that he's at least interested in returning to coaching. He wouldn't be a terrible choice.
2. Sam Cassell
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In all likelihood, Wittman's replacement upon his eventual removal from the head of the staff will be one of the Wizards own assistant coaches, of which they have a few good ones.
Sam Cassell has been talked about as a head coach in the NBA ever since he retired, and as an assistant for the past three seasons in Washington, he obviously knows the ins and outs of the team, plus he's got a great rapport with the players, having played with a good portion of them.
It's not like Cassell is a baby in the coaching world either. His final season with the Boston Celtics in 2008 saw him as a de facto assistant, and as he waned away on the Clippers bench and dealt with injury troubles, he was used in much the same way Chauncey Billups is being used by Los Angeles today.
If they're going for a younger, more relatable player-friendly coach, this is the guy to go for.
1. Don Newman
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Don Newman isn't exactly a household name in the NBA. He's not even a name that most people that follow the league would know, but he's the guy that's either attempting to make out with or tackle Gregg Popovich in the picture.
Newman started out in the league as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks back when Ray Allen was raining threes all over the league when his team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. He was also an assistant in the 2002 World Championships for Team USA.
Following his stint with the Bucks, Newman went on to basketball coaching's boot camp with the San Antonio Spurs where he was an assistant under Gregg Popovich for the past seven seasons.
He came to Washington this summer when he was named Wittman's lead assistant, so I'd imagine that if Wittman were fired, Newman would be the interim head coach. If the Wizards are looking for someone with experience, there's no reason Newman, a man who has been involved with coaching basketball for over 20 years, can't be their man.
He's not a flashy name and he's definitely not somebody who is going to make headlines, but he seems like a solid choice.