Wittman's authenticity shaped evolving Wizards

Wittman's authenticity shaped evolving Wizards
October 7, 2013, 12:30 am
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Al Harrington knows what takes place in the NBA. After 15 seasons in the league, he's heard many tales. During the 2011-12 campaign, he heard tales of woe about the dysfunctional Washington Wizards.

"Of course, because it was everywhere. It was on TV all the time," said the 15-year veteran, who signed as free agent with the Wizards this offseason. "We talk in the locker room and stuff like that. ...All that garbage is out and now it's a new regime. I think they got the right character guys and these fans are going to have something to be proud of a lot of years to come."

Randy Wittman's direct approach helped the turnaround. Since taking over for Flip Saunders as the Wizards head coach over the final 49 games of the challenging 2011-12 season, Wittman hasn't been bashful about stating his opinion. The franchise's owner respects the frankness.

"I admire his fortitude," Ted Leonsis said of Wittman, who enters the final year of his contract. "Randy came in, at a very, very difficult time. It was not a good team. It did not have good team optics. It was a selfish  team. It had lots of rookies. It had lots of players who were playing for contracts and our coach, we terminated.

Washington started that season at 2-15 then fired Saunders on January 24. In March the Wizards traded JaVale McGee and Nick Young in addition to banishing Andray Blatche from the team due to conditioning issues.

"We gave (Randy) the reins and he has been a very, very authentic, honest guy," Leonsis continued during his press conference on Friday. "And I admire that about him. He has never been, in the few meetings that I’ve had with him, he has never been shy about telling me what he thinks and what we need."

After another dismal start last season, the Wizards rallied and played .500 ball over the final 50 games thanks in part to their top-10 ranked defense.

"I think the players respect him because he has been unabashed in his truthiness and I admire that," Leonsis said of Wittman while channeling Stephen Colbert. "And he has done a really good job. He got this team to buy into playing hard, tough defense."

Wittman and team President Ernie Grunfeld, also in the final year of his contract, addressed the matter before the Wizards started training camp in Late September.

On Friday Leonsis said he feels urgency about the team's hopeful playoff push this season, but not because of the lingering contract issues.

Asked about the matter following Saturday's practice, Wittman simply stated, "I love where I'm at right now." A subsequent question focused on whether there are any challenges for a coach in the final year of a deal.

"Not really," Wittman said. "Some maybe if you're just into it or something. (If) we come out and do the things we're capable of doing this year everybody gets taken care of. Whether I had another year on my contract or didn't - bottom line is we do what's right on the floor, that's all I'm thinking about doing. Those things, if we can do those things, everything takes care of itself. I don't really worry about that."