Avery Johnson, the high profile coach of the Brooklyn Nets, was fired after Brooklyn lost 10 of the past 13 games. With the Wizards struggling and a high profile coach on the market, it is natural to wonder whether the Wizards should tap Avery Johnson for a midseason coaching change.
While I think the answer is no, and I’ll get to that later, I think this is as good a place as any to air my grievances about Randy Wittman. When Wittman was given an extension last year, it was criticized by the much of the NBA blogosphere. Wittman had been unsuccessful at his prior coaching stints and was not known for being a premier tactical mind. But on the other hand, Wittman was getting our young players to play better, particularly Kevin Seraphin. The Wizards had finished the season on a tear and Wittman had received rave reviews in the exit interviews. All things considered, I thought it was only fair to give Wittman a try.
It hasn’t gone well. While Grunfeld has received the majority of the blame for flawed roster construction, Wittman does not deserve a free ride. The goal of the Rashard Lewis trade for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza wasn’t to make the playoffs. The reason we traded for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza was to help spur the development of our young players, and any playoff appearances outside of that was a plus. And Randy Wittman was supposed to oversee this development. But every single young Wizard, with exception of Jordan Crawford and maybe Chris Singleton, has regressed this season. And while John Wall is injured, it is not like only Point Guard dependent skills have atrophied. Seraphin hasn’t taken the next step, Vesely looks confused, and Beal’s shot hasn’t fallen. So while I like Wittman, I think it’s fair to say he has failed at his primary coaching objective this year.
While a coaching change is in order, I do think the Avery Johnson hypothetical is pretty ridiculous. First, I don’t think there is any way he would accept. He is going to have other opportunities, and they will be bigger and better then the Wizards. Second, I think Johnson is more along the line of a Flip Saunders type who would lose control of the locker room then a young coach who would be able to keep the players in line. Finally, I don’t think a completely new coach coming in during the middle of the year without any knowledge about the already established schemes would be good.
That’s not to say that we don’t want a new coach. But just because Avery Johnson isn’t a good fit doesn’t mean that Wittman is off the hook.