Wiz of Awes Round Table: Head Coach

The clock is winding down on the season, and with that, so is Randy Wittman’s “interim head coach” title. Soon after this season concludes the Wizards will begin interviewing candidates for the full-time position.

There’s been a lot of rumors and opinions tossed about on the subject, so I gathered up the Wiz of Awes staff to discuss who they think should be the Wizards head coach next season.

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Kevin Hine

Since he took over in January, I’ve been satisfied with the job Randy Wittman has done as the interim head coach. Obviously the win column doesn’t indicate success on his part, but that was never the expectation with this Wizards roster this season, regardless of who the head coach was.

Even with Wittman’s emphasis on accountability, and even though the team has played hard under Wittman, I’m not necessarily beating the drum for him to return next season as the full-time head coach.

I wouldn’t be mad or upset if he was to get the job, but to me, there are two clear top candidates. Those two men being Nate McMillan and Stan Van Gundy. Both would be great hires, but I’m not going to straddle the fence … Give me Nate McMillan.

McMillan has already been fired by the Blazers, but even after being fired, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that told you Nate McMillan is not a good basketball coach. He took the job in Portland in 2005 when the Blazers organization was short on cash and just coming off of the “Jail Blazers” era. Under McMillan the Blazers improved in each of his first four years, and eventually had back-to-back 50-win seasons. That sounds a lot like the plan Ted Leonsis would like to follow.

A lot of his undoing in Portland came from injuries to some key players, whether it was Greg Oden or Brandon Roy. Without Brandon Roy, who was forced to retire prior to this season, the Blazers never got going and they hovered around .500.

Nate McMillan is sure to have his pick of a few different head coaching jobs this summer, but with John Wall, Nene, a high lottery pick, some nice young players to develop, and all the knuckleheads gone, the Wizards job has some intrigue. And oh yeah, money talks.

James Straton

Many will clamor for Ted Leonsis to do something ballsy and forward-thinking with his next coaching move. That means most will be hoping for him to find the next Tom Thibodeau, the next super-assistant sick of playing the role of understudy and ready to step to center stage. Unfortunately, this team is still too young and too raw to go out looking for the next big thing.

The best we can ask for is a coach who can instill some toughness and macro-level fundamentals (rotations, cuts, etc), a coach who is not the ultimate answer, a coach who John Wall’s Wizards should eventually outgrow. This team isn’t ready to compete now (unless they get Anthony Davis, fingers crossed). This team isn’t ready for a still-employed Stan Van Gundy, regardless of whether or not he is the best overall coach available.

This team is ripe for Doug Collins. Of course, Collins may not be available next year, but the Sixers’ recent collapse (don’t look now, but the Sixers are in the 8th seed by only 1 game) makes him a prime candidate to be fired. It doesn’t make great sense to desire a coach who is doing a poor enough job to be fired, but isn’t that the same situation the most often mentioned coaching solutions — Nate McMillan and Stan Van Gundy — find themselves in as well?

Doug Collins has a history of taking teams from awful to competitive. He couldn’t make the leap with Michael Jordan and appears to be failing now with the Sixers, but he has a strong pedigree. On average, his first year with a  team has come along with a 15 win increase. Doug Collins is the best choice for this team at this moment in time. Three or four years now, it will be time for someone else.

Christopher Cook

I want to start out by saying that I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but I think that Randy Wittman should be given another shot to coach the Wizards next season. Since Wittman has taken over, the Wizards have won 27 percent of their games compared to 11 percent under Flip Saunders. The overall record of the Wizards will probably be too bad come season’s end to justify keeping Wittman, but the players seem to be playing a lot harder since he took the reigns. He also isn’t afraid to sit the guys who aren’t playing hard. While some may be salivating about the possibility of John Wall running a Mike D’Antoni offense, I don’t think the head coach is the problem with this team right now.

Matt Houston

The Wizards have a myriad of options awaiting them this summer. Whether it be in free agency, the draft, or in this case, the head coaching position. There are three guys that I am most interested in at the end of this season — assuming Randy Wittman gets the boot. They are: Mike D’Antoni, Brian Shaw and David Joerger. I know most of you probably scoff at the notion that I would include Mike D’Antoni on this list, but after watching dismal offense for the last couple of seasons, I think that D’Antoni could bring a faster tempo, and ultimately more points. In the 2010-2011 season he led the Knicks to a 42-40 record, a playoff birth and the second ranked offense in the NBA in terms of points per game. It is common knowledge that D’Antoni does well when he has a good point guard, so I would love to see what he could do with John Wall. While the Wizards seem to be trending towards defense, and with more defensive minded coaches available, like Nate McMillan and possible Stan Van Gundy, I don’t really expect the Wizards to hire D’Antoni, but I for one would enjoy it.

As for Brian Shaw — a former NBA player, long-time Laker assistant coach and current Indiana Pacers assistant coach — I think he could be a good fit as well and could possibly serve as a long-term solution at the head coach position, seeing as he is just 46 years old, in comparison to D’Antoni who is 60. Shaw was suspected to be the heir apparent to Phil Jackson — well at least Kobe wanted him to be — but the Lakers decided to go with Mike Brown instead, and Shaw bolted for Indiana. Like D’Antoni, Shaw is supposed to be a very good point-guard coach, so he is also a good fit in that sense.

David Joerger is an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies and is considered to be the mastermind behind their defense. Joerger had tremendous success with the Dakota Wizards before joining the Grizzlies, so it only seems fitting for him to have tremendous success with the Washington Wizards.

Just to reiterate, the Wizards will have plenty of good candidates to choose from this offseason, and it will take a serious wild-card to surprise and upset me, but if Ernie Grunfeld is still the general manager, anything is possible. This off-season should be fun.

Ben Mehic

I think there are a lot of good head coaching candidates for the Wizards next season.  The first coaches that come to mind are Mike D’Antoni and Stan Van Gundy.

Mike D’Antoni can turn John Wall into a star. D’Antoni’s specialty in the run and gun offense could help John Wall flourish, and possibly help Wall take his game to the elite level. D’Antoni has lots of experience coaching point guards such as Steve Nash, and even turned Raymond Felton into a respectable player during his time with the New York Knicks. No one knows how to utilize the run and gun system like Mike D’Antoni. It would be very interesting to see what he could do with John Wall, and other guys that can run the floor like Jan Vesely.

Another coach I mentioned was Stan Van Gundy. Although Van Gundy is still the Orlando Magic head coach, his release is inevitable if the Magic want to keep Dwight Howard around. Van Gundy is pretty well known for turning potential into talent. Players such as Ryan Anderson and J.J Redick developed well under Van Gundy, and it would be nice to see Van Gundy turn some of the Wizards’ potential into talent.

Brian Shaw is another dark horse for the head coaching job. He was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, so Shaw knows what it takes to win. Being tutored by one of the best coaches of all-time in Phil Jackson doesn’t hurt either.

There have been reports that the Wizards will be looking to make a “splash” in the off-season in terms of the head coaching hire so it’s going to be fun to see what Ted Leonsis does to address the position.

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