The Washington Wizards are in the process of negotiating a deal which will keep Coach Randy Wittman with the team for at least next season, according to sources with awareness of the case. The terms of the deal being debated weren’t divulged.
For weeks, the Wizards have been neutral publicly about bringing back Wittman but a lack of aggressiveness with so many significant name candidates obtainable has spoken volumes about their plans. Odds
Reports have been surfacing this week about the Wizards’ plan to retain Wittman. And with little movement to the contrary especially with proven coaches like Stan Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan and Nate McMillan on the market it was most unlikely to dispute the sentiment of most league executives and agents that Wittman would be coach next season.
The source intimated that anything could get done by early next week, with an official announcement to follow. President Ernie Grunfeld said that he liked the job Wittman has done and that a decision would be made per his future “way before the draft,” which may be held June 28. Nothing has been agreed on or signed with Wittman, according to multiple league sources. And, someone with knowledge of the scenario declared the Wizards’ ambitions hadn’t been absolutely voiced as to the person with the most at risk in the decision Wittman.
“Randy’s under contract,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis claimed after the draft lottery, “and now, he’s our coach.”
Grunfeld and Wittman are currently in Minneapolis, where delegates from just about 30 teams are scouting players at Target Center during 2 days of workouts in preparation for the draft. Wittman maintains an offseason residence in Minnesota. Also he is anticipated to be in Chicago next week for the pre-draft camp to observe drills and meet with many of the top prospects.
With the season completed more than a month ago, it seemed that the Wizards were stringing Wittman along, but they didn’t interview other coaches while he was still under contract. That didn’t definitely mean they had no real interest in looking elsewhere. According to a league source that has been in communication with the Wizards, the team would’ve been more inclined to go outside the organization if Wittman and his complete staff hadn’t been under agreement for next season.
Wittman and assistants Don Zierden, Sam Cassell, Gene Banks and Ryan Saunders all signed 2-year extensions before last season to match up with previous Coach Flip Saunders. The Wizards held the selection on the 4th year of the $18-million agreement Saunders signed in 2009 a choice that obviously didn’t have to be used when Saunders was fired on Jan. 24 after a 2-15 start.
Wittman is expected to be kept at a price a lot less than Van Gundy, Sloan or McMillan would have commanded and 2 sources added that the team wasn’t really high on Mike D’Antoni because they didn’t think the previous NY and Phoenix coach would demand sufficient discipline. The Wizards were also burned the last time they made a large investment in a big-name coach, with Saunders going 51-130.