Of course, both Jackson and Wittman were in entirely different situations–one aiming for the NBA championship, the other desperately seeking a spot in the postseason in the weak Eastern Conference, but both were instrumental in turning their teams around.
Ever since Randy Wittman took over for Flip Saunders in 2012 on an interim basis, the Wizards have been playing top-10 defense and have played competitive basketball since. Now that the Wizards have compiled a roster filled with competent players, led by John Wall and Bradley Beal, Wittman has been able to lead his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and will have a legitimate shot at making the Eastern Conference Finals over the troubled, number one seeded, Indiana Pacers.
As Fred Katz astutely pointed out, much of Washington’s success against the Chicago Bulls in the first round stemmed from Wittman’s creativity. Wittman’s inefficient offense and reliance on the mid-range jump shot, which is deemed the worst shot in basketball, has been irrelevant in the playoffs, considering how creative Wittman has been with his rotations. For example, John Wall struggled mightily in Game 1, a contest the Wizards could of lost with a few missed bounces, but Wittman’s decision to keep Andre Miller on the floor late in the game after he started to make an impact, or ride the pony as he would call it, proved to be well worth the risk since Washington went on to win the game. In that situation, most coaches would’ve put their star player back in the game, but Wittman took the risk and it payed off. Wittman was in a similar situation with Marcin Gortat against the Bulls, but opted to play Trevor Booker along side Nene at times, which also turned out to be a great decision. His creativity continued last night in Indiana when he decided to pull Booker out of the game very early on, giving Drew Gooden a chance to play when Washington’s offense seemed to stagnate. Gooden finished the game with 12 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, despite getting very little playing time in the first round. You get the point.
Now, I’m not saying Wittman should’ve won Coach of the Year, but he does deserve some credit for Washington’s success in the NBA Playoffs. While Washington’s offense is still rather inconsistent and leaves much to be desired, the players are locked in defensively and their belief in Wittman’s defensive philosophies is evident in their commitment on that side of the floor. Wittman’s old-school, stubborn, coaching style can certainly be frustrating at times, but it’s paying off on one of the biggest stages the NBA has to offer–the NBA Playoffs.
Have any thoughts on Wittman and Washington’s playoff run? Let me know in the comments section.