It was fun while it lasted.
Randy Wittman has been the coach of the Wizards since taking over for Flip Saunders in the middle of the 2011-12 season. Now, it doesn’t appear there will be another year to add to his Washingtonian legacy, according to the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo.
Wednesday will mark the end of Randy Wittman’s fourth full campaign and perhaps his tenure as head coach in Washington. Next season will be the third year of his three-year contract, which pays him more than $3 million per season. But it isn’t fully guaranteed and NBA sources say he is unlikely to return for the 2016-17 campaign.
Castillo adds that Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld is expected to return once again next season.
After two-straight playoff appearances, during which Wittman led his Wizards to first-round series victories both times, the 40-41 Wizards dipped below expectations this year. In reality, Washington isn’t all that much worse than it was in the previous two campaigns, though it did feel like the bottom dropped out of this team from the very beginning.
The Wizards have never won more than 46 games under Wittman. They hit their high last season. The year before that, the win total was just 44. Regardless of whether they finish with 40 or 41 wins, such a drop isn’t quite precipitous, and it’s far from unprecedented.
Still, Wittman’s departure makes perfect sense. Washington has arguably underperformed in the regular season during each of the last two years. The best justification for keeping Wittman around after those following offseasons was his postseason success. Especially after last season — when the Wizards changed their style, played more small ball and moved to a more up-tempo pace — “Playoff Wittman” became a pervasive joke around the nerdiest of NBA circles.
It wasn’t unwarranted. Washington swept the favored Raptors during the first round of the 2015 postseason and played the 60-win Hawks about as closely as a six-game series could be played during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That was only a year removed from a first-round victory over the Bulls.
But this year doesn’t yield an opportunity for Wittman to save his job in the postseason after Washington’s win total fell off despite the team continuing that up-tempo style into 2015-16. That adjustment came with a massive fall-off on the defensive end of the floor, the part of the game that was usually a strength for Wittman and Co.
There are plenty of strong coaching candidates out there, including Tom Thibodeau (make this happen!), and the Wizards job is an attractive one for reasons beyond just getting to coach John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington rarely fires anyone. Just look how long it took the organization to oust Wittman despite cries to make a coaching change for the last few years. Heck, Ernie Grunfeld has been there for 14 seasons, long enough for a rebuild, a tear-down, another rebuild and another tear-down. How many other GMs in the league get that sort of leeway?
There’s real job security in Washington. Plus, you get to coach one of the NBA’s premier, young backcourts.
The Wizards have a lot to offer here. Now, they just have to snag someone worthwhile.