Flip Saunders the Wrong Script for the Washington Wizards to Flip

Jarrett CarterAnalyst IApril 13, 2009

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MAY 30:  Richard Hamilton #32 talks with head coach Flip Saunders of the Detroit Pistons against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on May 30, 2008 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Say what you will about the personalities, career wins and all of that, the question you have to ask yourself with the Flip Saunders-to-the-Wizards rumors is really quite simple.

Will Gilbert Arenas like playing for him?

Because if the answer is yes, which is what Saunders has generally been praised for throughout his career, you can look forward to a possible Caron Butler trade, a media barnburner in Arenas, and a few more years of barely-making-the-playoffs mediocrity.

The truth of the matter is that this team doesn’t need an offensive Mozart to come in a construct a symphony of fast breaking scoring opportunities.

This team needs someone that Arenas and the young players will despise, because he will demand accountability and management starting from the point guard position and reliable performance from the young role players.

Flip Saunders is not that guy.

Forget what you read in the papers, Arenas and former Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan couldn’t stand each other. They had a respect for each other’s hustle, but that’s as far as it went between those two. Jordan required certain deliverables from his shooting star, and those requirements usually translated to comfort zones for veterans Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

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Oh, it was all good when the Wizards were running and gunning their way to fifth and sixth place finishes in the Eastern Conference—but when things were tough, Jordan had no problem calling out Arenas, Nick Young, Andray Blatche, and any other knucklehead whose play on the court didn’t match their playfulness off of it.

This had a calming effect on the vets Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, who care too much and see the end coming to play locker room hardass to the core of young players and the now-maturing Arenas.

And while he may be maturing, don’t think for a second that Arenas is above questioning certain calls or philosophies in the media when the Wizards hit rough stretches against Western Conference opponents in Year One. Yeah, it’s going to be trouble.

But Flip Saunders won’t call out Arenas, or any of the other young players that need it to aspire for greatness in the NBA. He’ll explain it away until the Wiz are looking at a .500 record at season’s end, and that’s if they don’t experience their annual passage of late winter-early spring injuries.

There’s no doubt that Saunders can coach and can teach, but there have always been questions about his ability to generate motivation within that equation. There’s a chance the Wizards may improve slightly just from the new face in the locker room, but over the long term, it won’t end well for a player’s coach and a Wizards’ Romper locker room. They just aren’t mature enough for it.

And when two years under Saunders doesn’t equate to playoff series victories, Ernie Grunfeld will be stuck with an untradeable contract in Arenas, a too old Jamison, and a Nick Young who will garner some interest as a scorer off the bench. That leaves Caron Butler as the only route to imploding the team for a veteran post player that the Wizards so desperately need in a last-ditch push to make noise in the playoffs.

But the Washington Wizards can avoid all of that if they hire a coach that demands more of his players than they stand to concede. If they bring in a guy who will call out players, hold them responsible for defensive lapses and mistakes, and grate on them every minute of the entire season at the head of the team.

The Wizards have to have a coach they can’t stand, to bring the most out players who have not yet developed the flaming urgency to contend for a championship.

That ain't Flip, but there is a Little General somewhere out there that fits the bill just perfectly.


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