Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman stands near Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Washington. The Pacers won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Washington Wizards have floundered in the second half of the 2014-2015 NBA season and unless a magical postseason run happens, the campaign will be an average one. Washington continues to fumble double-digit leads, collapse defensively and lose games that stronger teams win with ease. Head coach Randy Wittman has done a good job of getting the Wizards’ play up to a competent level but major concerns still remain. Some fear that Wittman mayhave already lost the locker room after the coach walked off the court before the game ended in a home bout with the Indiana Pacers. Washington soared as high as second place in the Eastern Conference in the first quarter of the season behind the Atlanta Hawks. Washington (41-32) is fresh off a 4-13 stretch but has looked much worse since jumping to a 19-6 start. With a 12-26 record since December, confidence and patience are starting to waver. Obviously the talent is there for Washington to be a solid team, but is the coach? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the issue
Green: If you would have asked me this question two years ago, I would have told you emphatically that Wittman needs to go. I remember former Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl was on the market, too, and he would have made a great fit in Washington. But things have changed dramatically since then. Karl is no longer available. And, from what Wittman has done for the team and where he’s pulled them from since his coaching tenure started, he has done an admirable job. I remember when Washington was fresh off the Gilbert Arenas fiasco that rocked the franchise and shifted future plans. For the Wizards to be playing high level basketball again is still something worth bragging about despite their recent stretch of sour play. Although critics will point fingers at Wittman for falling off, the talent level of the team still continues to be a work in progress. John Wall is a legitimate star, and Bradley Beal is a nice development piece, but holes in the front court and off the bench consistently hurt the team. Wittman is a good coach but even the best coaches of all time needed an abundance of toys to play with.
Riley: Back-to-back playoff campaigns should definitely receive approval from supporters, but the fact of the matter is the Wizards franchise hasn’t made any serious noise in decades and they won’t as long as Wittman is running the ship. For where the team is trying to go, they need a coach who can take them there, and Wittman just simply isn’t that. He’s a defensive-minded coach whose team struggles often on the offensive side of the ball. I agree that the Wizards could use some more talent, but they could also use a coach to attract better free agent prospects and a figurehead that the players can believe in. Wittman quit on the team when he left the court early. It’s only a matter of time before things get chaotic in D.C.
Green: He had a weak moment, but all coaches do. Wittman’s been coaching hard for the last few years and has gotten this team farther than most coaches would have. The team isn’t where they predicted themselves to be but all of that is not on the coach. The real person who should be in question is general manager Ernie Grunfeld. He hasn’t exactly made Wittman’s job easy. He drafted Otto Porter with a top-five pick, and that still hasn’t panned out to be a success. Grunfeld also let former Wizard Trevor Ariza walk, taking away one of Washington’s best “glue players.” And I don’t know what he was thinking when he traded away veteran point guard Andre Miller, one of the best backup floor generals in the NBA. These players were major contributors when Washington was at its best in recent history. Now they’re gone and the team is suffering. So, let’s be clear here: If we’re going to blame anyone for the Wizards’ demise, let’s make sure the buck stops at Grunfeld, not Witt.