Who's Going to Coach?

Caron Butler had a lot to say about his summer plans and the future of the Washington Wizards today, but the quote that stood out was his comment about the window of opportunity for this team.

"If you look at our window for opportunity, we have a four-year window right now," Butler said. "Guys are not getting no younger. Antawn is 32, I'm 29, Gilbert is 27. DeShawn is 28. Brendan is approaching 30. The core guys are in the prime of their careers. Right now, we don't have time to have another developing year ... The time is now."

I'm not sure if the window is open that long, because Haywood will be a free agent next summer, Butler can become one in 2011 and Arenas can opt of his contract in 2012, which is also the final season of Jamison's deal.

Whoa, whoa. These are just rumors. (AP Photo)

But I agree with Butler that the time is now for the Wizards, which means that Ernie Grunfeld will have to really get it right with his first head coaching hire for the Wizards.

In the past week, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN's Chris Sheridan both speculated that Flip Saunders is the favorite to take over the Wizards next season. That has been mentioned several times before on this blog, as well. Wojnarowski intimated that it's a done deal.

I've spoken with several executives around the league in recent weeks and Saunders is always the first name to come up in discussions about the job. I asked Grunfeld about the Saunders rumors recently and he gave me the same tried and true line that the Wizards wouldn't make a decision on a coach until after the season. I think Grunfeld knows where he is leaning -- seriously, he fired Eddie Jordan before Thanksgiving -- but won't say anything as a way of not offending Ed Tapscott, the guy who is taking a figurative bullet for the franchise by coaching this current 18-61 team.

A league source familiar with the Wizards' thinking told me that Grunfeld is looking for a veteran coach with a track record of playoff success. The two big names available that can make that claim are Saunders -- who has made it to the conference finals four combined times with Minnesota and Detroit -- and Avery Johnson -- who led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs four years in a row and took them to the NBA Finals in 2006.

I also heard that the Wizards would consider current Mavericks assistant and former Minnesota Coach Dwane Casey and former Toronto Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell, whom Grunfeld once hired as an assistant in Milwaukee. An ultra, ultra, super-duper long shot would be Villanova Coach Jay Wright, of whom I heard Grunfeld is a huge fan. But I'd rule out Wright simply because Grunfeld is seeking someone with NBA experience. You don't want to put a college coach in charge of veteran team. That usually is a disaster.

A team source told me that Grunfeld has fielded several calls for the position, which would appear to be an attractive job if and only if Arenas is healthy. One league executive told me that any coach that takes over this team has to have a serious and deep sit down conversation with Arenas before deciding to take the job.

The reason that Saunders' name keeps coming up is pretty obvious. He has a proven track record as a coach. He has a solid reputation as an offensive play caller (He drew up some plays for Michigan State's Tom Izzo during the Final Four). You also cannot forget that Saunders attended training camp this October in Richmond and went over defensive schemes with the players. Saunders is more noted for his offense than his defense, since he loves to push the zone.

But the main issue with any hire is money. The Wizards' financial situation is pretty bleak, with the team owing almost $76 million in salary next season before adding a potential high draft pick. They also still have Eddie Jordan's salary, which the Wizards will have to pay in full if he doesn't land somewhere else next season, such as Sacramento. And as one rival NBA general manager told me recently, "Flip's not coming cheap."

Johnson would bring a much-needed defensive presence to the organization, but his restrictive style grated on several Mavericks on the way out. I also have a hard time seeing Arenas favoring that hire. But that might not be a bad thing, either.

To get one of those coaches, the Wizards will have to spend some money, but you have to wonder how high they can go. Although Wizards owner Abe Pollin told the Washington Times recently that he is not averse to pay the luxury tax, you have to wonder how much is too much. "Where are they getting all of this money?" the rival general manager asked, noting how the team is stepping into an unprecedented big money era.

The time really is now.

By Michael Lee |  April 10, 2009; 8:44 AM ET
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If I understand correctly, one of the reasons Abe Pollin (who by all accounts has weathered the financial crisis well) does not like to pay the luxury tax is the stigma of tax-paying teams as buying a championship team a la the Yankees rather than building one the old-fashioned way through a mix of creativity, wisdom, and good luck.
That said, I have yet to see anything that compares to Avery Johnson's record. When he took over the Mav's late in the season, he guided them to a 16-2 finish. He took them within two wins of a championship.
After enduring this season, the worst in club history, I don't think we are looking to return to .550 winning percentage and winning a playoff series every few years. That's where an offensive coach will get us. The best of all offensive coaches, Mike D'Antoni, was not able to get one of the more talented teams of the past few decades, the Suns, to the Finals in several seasons.
Defense wins championships, not egos. We need an Avery Johnson to come in and lay down the law. If the players hate him after three years, so what! Larry Brown won a championship in a few years with a Pistons team that hated him, and Johnson nearly did the same. The organization isn't making a life-long commitment to a head coach, its four, five years TOPS.
That also happens to be the length of the window of opportunity that Butler described.
So once again, we don't need someone who's going to be Gil's lifelong best friend. Coaches last five years tops, so its okay if the players hate them, as long as they get what needs to be done accomplished (defense). A lot of championship teams hate their coaches, whats the more important part of that statement? That they hate the coach? Or that they are a championship team? Ask yourselves that question Wizards fans.

Posted by: emmet1 | April 10, 2009 9:10 AM

I was listening to the John Thompson show yesterday and they were discussing our coaching situation.

In a nutshell, Thompson and Mitchell said that the Wizards chance of getting a first rate coach is not good because of Gilbert Arenas, his contract and his control over the organization. His coming back from injury and Jordan did not know and all the unpredictable things surrounding Gilbert.

I particularly like the JT Show and think they are entertaining and know what they are discussing.

On this point however, I disagree.

I disagree because in this case they are overlooking the obvious. First rate coaches and those that become first rate do not tolerate foolishness.

Eddie Jordan despite what some might think and certainly not Tappscott are not First Rate coaches.

Eddie Jordan at best was a good coach, but he never reached that brotherhood of First Rate.

First Rate coaches demand respect, professioalism, discipline, and know what is going on with there Team on and off the court.

A first rate coach would demand that Gilbert or any star player carry his proper role for the success of the organization. In fact, in most all cases of the star player succeeding, his role and responsibilites are greater than everyone elses.

First Rate coaches do not compromise being successful for foolishness or for star players whom are foolish and immature.

Trust me, when I say this, GILBERT ARENAS is not foolish or immature and he will be the first in line to SALUTE with the selection of a First Rate Coach.

My vote is for MARK JACKSON as the next Wizards coach, whom I know will be no less than FIRST RATE.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 10, 2009 9:29 AM

Avery Johnson certainly has an impressive resume. He was hand-picked by Don Nelson to take over the Mavs. He had a terrific run with a very talented team (more talented at the time than the current Wizards). Then he hit a major snag with two consecutive first round losses, one to Nelson's undertalented Warriors club. After leaving Dallas, he was a finalist for the Pistons job, which seemed a natural fit, but Dumars went with Mike Curry, an assistant.

He's a tough, hard-working coach in the mold of say, George Karl or Scott Skiles. He blows up at the media on occasion, but that's understandable. He's not an offensive coach, so he'd need an experienced assistant.

If he had the Wiz, I think we could assume they'd play decent overall team defense -- something we sure haven't seen this year -- and get back to some level of respectability. As to the development of young players, it's hard to tell -- the Mavs were a veteran team for the most part.

Overall I tend to be underwhelmed by coaches like Johnson because the motivate by negative reinforcement (otherwise known as yelling). I know that works with some young players, so maybe the kiddie corps would benefit. The vets -- maybe not so much.

I'd look elsewhere.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 10, 2009 9:38 AM

I agree. defense win. Avery all the way. esp. with the young guys on our team. that still are learning how to play basketball.(nba) nick young who if he works on his defense is def. a starter next year. but i still like him coming off the bench. crit and Dom who are work horses. their game would improve. i could see dom. as a bruce bowen type defender in a few years under avery. Blatche who is alright but needs to toughen up. pecherov who is not bad i think he is the most sound of all the young big guys.but just is at the end of the bench. avery likes sound guys. from what i saw this year i saw about 70 games this year. what i saw is we have the best bench in the nba. with 0 and brendan we stand up against anyones starters. cavs at home. if arenas is anything he once was we will be in the mix next year with whoever comes to coach.
eddie Jyou are missed.

Posted by: grandwiz | April 10, 2009 9:49 AM

Larry and Emmet,

This isn't the military. Even in business, star performers don't salute the new CEO. Authoritatism works for some, but not others.

Arenas is not going to react well to an authoritative structure.

Any new coach needs to approach and treat each and every player differently - including, McGee, Blatche and Young.

There also should an overall approach for the team's strategy and execution - but that should come from the team as a whole on a bottom's up basis to engender buy-in - not from the top down.

Finally, the entire organization should work towards developing team spirit. That includes stuff on and off the court and involves compromise on little things such as what the vets have to put up with.

Posted by: Izman | April 10, 2009 9:50 AM

This Team needs a fresh young coach that understands veterans, knows how to mesh the young talent and has an undeniable thirst to win now with the talent he has.

Winners win because they don't waste time on what they don't have, but rather they spend time on beating you with what they do have.

Flip Saunders is good for a 6-7 man veteran rotation. Not a fit for this Team.

We need a young mind not afraid to gamble and win with a 8-10 rotation. It can be done and would be the right philosophy for this Team.

Flip's defensive scheme will not solve our defensive woes.

Avery Johnson might solve our defensive woes, but has he learned from his experience at Dallas.

If you ever been a Gambler, you might understand why I keep saying that MARK JACKSON would be the perfect choice.

A gamble, yes indeed, but I think he as the temperment, the knowledge, and the discipline to make this Team a Winning exciting Team.

And not just winning and exciting, I believe he will be driven to win a Ring know.

And P.S. I think he might fit the budget.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 10, 2009 9:51 AM

Not a big Avery supporter. Flip seems like a reasonable choice, as would a possibly available Lawrence Frank. Thibodeau would be my top choice, despite his lack of experience. Really not at all confident in Ayers and surprised he hasn't taken more heat, given the massive problems with rotations and other defensive confusion (can it really be that all of these players are that slow of learners???).

Posted by: GshawnJohnson | April 10, 2009 9:59 AM

I'd put a little money on it not being Saunders. I'd guess one of Casey, Tom Thibedeaux, Dave Jorger or David Blatt. Probably not Blatt because he won't come cheap either -- even though he's never coached in the NBA, he makes very good money. Thibs has recent champsionship experience, just not as a head guy (as a lead assistant). Jorger has won multiple titles, just not at the NBA level.

I'd be surprised if they went out and paid big money for Flip when another one of these guys could be had much cheaper. Flip's got a nice track record, but let's not make him out to be Red Auerbach. My guess is one of these other guys would be just as successful if given the opportunity.

Posted by: TheFunBunch | April 10, 2009 10:02 AM


You caught my Military inference. You are right. My point is though that Gilbert would be the first to let the Coach know that he is ready to follow the gameplan.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 10, 2009 10:05 AM

If we are really serious about defense it seems like Avery is the one. Who cares if he yells and grates on people a little bit. That type of attitude, competitiveness and desire to win is what gets you past the good teams and we could use a little more focus like that on this team. I think Gilbert would be fine with someone who wants to be serious for a change.

If we want to win 60 games, play the zone and lose in the postseason let's bring in Flip. Though he is smart and brings probably the biggest playbook of the league in with him. I don't think our younger guys have the focus to learn all the plays and would probably still clown around. In Detroit they eventually tuned him out and he had no control over the locker room. That is the last thing we need (more of).

Posted by: lameotron | April 10, 2009 10:26 AM

Whoever is going to be the next coach must have both management and key player buy-in upfront.

If Avery Johnson can sell himself to both sides, he may be the right choice. We have to assume he has learned something from his experience in Dallas, and that his coaching style now will be a bit less unbending.

Much as I respect Mark Jackson, we would be gambling on a first-timer just as our key players are all in their primes.

Flip Saunders can get you to the playoffs, but Avery can get you to Game 7 of the Finals.

Posted by: khrabb | April 10, 2009 10:29 AM

Here we go again with our egg-shell wizards, pussy-footing on a coach. I haven't seen a coach especially a young coach such as Avery Johnson that have accomplished what he has in such a short time. So what if Gilbert doesn't like him? isn't Gilbert he getting paid? what has he accomplished as a player to not like the philosophies of his coach? what the wizards need is a tough coach that demands respect and professionality from his players. Andre Blatche needs to keep his ass out of clubs and spend more time in the weight room and gym developing his skills. Gilbert needs to show the fans that he deserves the $100 million plus that was bestowed upon him foolishly by Abe and his crew. These guys needs to win and win right now, enough of this foolish mentality of "NEXT YEAR" if they were working for a corporation would that be their answers for not producing? Get a tough coach not a players pet and get their asses in shape to win.

Posted by: lovenj | April 10, 2009 10:35 AM

Here is my reasoning for the head coaching situation. We have 3 All-Stars, what is the point in brining in an offensive coach. Someone is getting paid $111 Million and he is 27, but yet and still we care about his opinion? I thought Grunfeld ran this team and therefore, he should hire Avery Johnson. People say that he is going to come at a hefty price tag, well you paid $111 Million for someone that hasnt played 90% of this season and hasnt been to the NBA Finals, so whats the problem?
I truly believe that peoples priorities are in the wrong place and I feel the only option for this team, given our track record, is Avery Johnson.

Posted by: vwilli1 | April 10, 2009 10:38 AM

Wonder why Boston assistant Thibodeau's name isn't mentioned. If price tag is an issue, Thibodeau could be cheaper (coming from assistant coach rank). His work on Boston's defense is well-respected. Of course Avery Johnson has a good record, he inherited a good team!

I'd stay with Saunders if Wizards want a established coach, otherwise I'd try to pry Thibodeau away from Boston.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 10, 2009 10:38 AM

I'll take Sauders please.

Posted by: Fontana1 | April 10, 2009 10:39 AM

This team knows how to score. We need a defensive coach if we really want to win it all.

Avery grates on vets, Flip is offense-first.

Why not consider Thibodeau? He has credibility (19 years of NBA coaching and a ring) and he's all about defense. We don't need Flip and his large offensive playbook. We also don't need the vets rebelling against Avery. We need a guy who has won the big one and can show players how to get it done.

Posted by: original_mark | April 10, 2009 10:40 AM

No offense to John Thompson but he has no idea what he is talking about. His reading of the pulse of anything related to the NBA is suspect at best. The Wizards are a good spot for any coach if they are healthy because they will certainly make the playoffs and have a solid veteran core that can be counted on. The health of the team is the most important thing holding back the team.

Posted by: Chad32 | April 10, 2009 10:42 AM

You know what?

Who gives a hootnanny what Gilbert Arenas or any of the young kids think. If you are going to bring a coach in that will make the TEAM better, then I am all for it. I personally would like to see Avery Johnson, or Mark Jackson coach my wizards. They need a coach who is gonna put a boot in their butts. And not let them breathe at all. I think Mark Jackson is certainly a gamble, but i think it would work out, because Mark Jackson is one of the great point guards of all time. He will help slow down Gilberts game because folks Gilbert will never be 29ppg scorer. And he doesnt need to score 29 anymore anyway. You have a 20 10 guy in jamison and another 20 guy in butler. Gil at the most should b scoring 19, and dropping 7 assists per game. I certainly hope they[ wizards management] gets this one right

Posted by: jasperhneyaolcom | April 10, 2009 10:43 AM

As for a coach, Flip Saunders seems like the most logical choice. Another option may be Tom Thibideaux who will certainly bring a defensive plan to the table.

Posted by: Chad32 | April 10, 2009 10:43 AM

Let's face it, the Wizards stink, have always stunk, and will likely stink in the coming season -- no matter who the coach is or how many great players they have. Firing Eddie Jordan was pretty boneheaded. This team was a fourth seed (or near the fourth seed) just about every year that Eddie Jordan has been the coach. So what if he went 1 and 10 -- he deserved the support of the organization if for no other reason that he earned it over the past few seasons. This is Abe Polin's idiocy all over again. First you bring in Michael Jordan, get him to play (selling a whole lot of tickets and making lots of cash for Polin) and he tossed him out like rotten fish just to show that Polin was the more powerful man. Then they hired Eddie Jordan (a very good coach) who brought them a lot of success and you summarily fired him after 10 games -- never mind the fact that he's brought you the most success of any coach in the past what 20 years. Good moves there Abe.

It's time for the DC basketball fans to admit what really going on here. Abe Polin is a senile, idiotic, and bone-headedly egotistical. How much longer must basketball fans in this city suffer through this. This team has great players (and had a great coach), but that organization is A COMPLETE JOKE and embarrassment to the city -- and I don't see this changing anytime soon (no matter who the coach is). I guess it's the case of Long Live Les Boullets.

Posted by: blackmanhl | April 10, 2009 10:52 AM

I agree that the team should not draft another "project." The problem I have with Tapscott is not the team's poor record, but he didn't develop young players. Under Tapscott, we see Jamison and Butler logged heavy minutes (Jamison even lead the league in minutes played), and little development from young players.

McGee at the beginning of the season is still the same as the end of the season, a talented, raw jumping jack, who is good in alley-oops and blocks, but has no idea on other aspects of playing basketball!

This is a lost season, not because of the record, but because we did not use this season to develop our young talents!

Posted by: sagaliba | April 10, 2009 10:56 AM

Given the way everything's gone down, I think this team is looking to hire some other teams assistant. You don't put Tapscott in charge for the entirety of the season if the guy you want to take over this team doesn't currently have a job through the rest of this season. That just doesn't make sense. Grunfeld may make mistakes in judgement, but I do give him the benefit of the doubt that there's a plan.

To me, that points straight to a guy like Thibedeaux or another highly sought after assistant. If Flip was the first choice, he would have been the coach by now. Tapscott took one for the team because they didn't want to hire an interim coach who would expect to get a chance beyond this season. That's probably why Ayers wasn't named interim coach. If they end up with Flip or Avery, it'll be because Grunfeld's first choice gets hired somewhere else or is unavailable.

Or maybe I'm just hoping that there actually is a plan and we didn't put Tapscott in charge for nothing.

Posted by: manifested | April 10, 2009 10:56 AM

Thibodeau is my first choice too and I hear that his contract with the Celtics is up after this year. Also, not sure what went down, but we almost had him as our defensive guru until somthing went down between him and Jordan. The next thing you know, he walked. I do know he has a good rapport with Grunfeld because he was the one who chose him in the first place. Thibodeau would bring the lock down defensive qualities the Wizards are so lacking.

Posted by: ivyleague | April 10, 2009 10:58 AM

These are grown men who have been coddled and pampered since childhood. They're filthy rich, and their 18 wins demonstrates they're comfortable simply letting the losses pile up while the checks roll in.

It takes a confident, secure person to take orders from a disciplinarian like Johnson, the kind of man who, reportedly, has no problem taking anyone to task.

Who on the Wizards do you possibly think fits that description? Did you watch this team play on Wednesday? Did you see the effort they put up? Do you really think they will respond to Avery Johnson?

Flip Saunders might not lead the team to a championship, but he will get us to the playoffs and put on a good show. And as a lifelong fan, that's a lot more appealing than watching these players turn their back on Avery Johnson in a spectacular (and expensive) flameout.

Posted by: bryc3 | April 10, 2009 11:11 AM

"My vote is for MARK JACKSON as the next Wizards coach, whom I know will be no less than FIRST RATE.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 10, 2009 9:29 AM "

Mark Jackson = OJT

Caron will walk after his contract is up if this team is mediocre again.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | April 10, 2009 11:16 AM

This is a lost season, not because of the record, but because we did not use this season to develop our young talents!

Posted by: sagaliba | April 10, 2009 10:56 AM

I think Haywood (and maybe even to a lesser extent Thomas) being out affected McGee's development more than not getting playing time did. It will do McGee a world of good to bang against Haywood in practice everyday next year.
Hell, we might be talkin about Haywood and McGee in 2011 instead of the Big 3

Posted by: ryjufox3 | April 10, 2009 11:29 AM

"n Detroit they eventually tuned him out and he had no control over the locker room. That is the last thing we need (more of).Posted by: lameotron"

I'm under the impression the Mavs tuned Avery out big-time in Dallas, which led to the firing.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 10, 2009 11:30 AM

I like the Mark Jackson idea a little more than Avery Johnson. As for Flip, didn't the Pistons veterans pretty much tune him out? I have a feeling that would happen, given that I'm sure players talk to each other about how they feel about their coaches. If not Jackson, then someone else who has a strong defensive pedigree and has been on staff at a championship level franchise.

Posted by: jwizard | April 10, 2009 11:31 AM


Here we go again with our egg-shell wizards, pussy-footing on a coach. I haven't seen a coach especially a young coach such as Avery Johnson that have accomplished what he has in such a short time. So what if Gilbert doesn't like him? isn't Gilbert he getting paid? what has he accomplished as a player to not like the philosophies of his coach? what the wizards need is a tough coach that demands respect and professionality from his players. Andre Blatche needs to keep his ass out of clubs and spend more time in the weight room and gym developing his skills. Gilbert needs to show the fans that he deserves the $100 million plus that was bestowed upon him foolishly by Abe and his crew. These guys needs to win and win right now, enough of this foolish mentality of "NEXT YEAR" if they were working for a corporation would that be their answers for not producing? Get a tough coach not a players pet and get their asses in shape to win.Posted by: lovenj |"

I'm guessing you've never supervised people with big, guaranteed contracts. I suspect this because, after all, you're still alive, aren't you?

Posted by: Samson151 | April 10, 2009 11:35 AM

Does no one remember that Eddie Jordan tried to hire Thibedeaux before he went to Boston. Thibedeaux didn't want to coach in Washington. Why not hire a coach like Avery Johnson that going to hold the players accountable. How about Patrick Ewing as the new Wizards coach?

Posted by: WashingtonEverythingFan | April 10, 2009 11:50 AM

washingtoneverythingfan: "How about Patrick Ewing as the new Wizards coach?"

Somebody made a very persuasive argument a while back about why you shouldn't hire a compleely untested rookie head coach and put him in a difficult situation like the current Wizards, but I cant' remember what it was.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 10, 2009 11:54 AM

A NOTE TO BLACKMANHL: Thanks for pointing out the obvious, EJ was the best coach this franchise has had in twenty years but people like Larry/Cltn,md. didn't think so, and NOW WHAT? How is Flip Saunders any better than Jordan? this just in;He's Not!! As you so brilliantly pointed out blackmanhl we still have to pay Jordan mega millions until he finds a job(if i'm Jordan i sit on my azz and make them pay after that krap they pulled this season) All I and EJ backers heard after he was fired was that he didn't play the young guys and he was retarding the progress of one Andray Blatche("he was cramping my style of play") and what style would that be Mr.Serial Skirt Chaser?jackin up ill-advised three's, behind the back dribble's, that led to turnovers at critical juncture's during the game sulking when the coach's tried to give you good advice, not showing up for weight room workouts so you wouldn't get pushed around underneath the basket.Jordan did everything you could ask of a coach, Jordan's relationship with Gilbert wasn't the best, but when you're so called GM doesn't have your back what can any coach expect, that's why "KARMA" bit Gil in his azz(by way of knee problems)for disrespecting EJ after Jordan was so supportive of Gil's career. This franchise made a serious error when they fired EJ to a man if you ask the players this was a players coach, yes he was old school nothing wrong with that and he was admired throughout the city(ask around,hometown boy makes good)Grunfeld obviously had a personal beef with EJ because there was no good reason why Jordan should have been fired. Grunfeld should be show the door ASAP,so that we can get a real coach and gm, actually i would rehire EJ(save 8 mil)and conduct a search for a GM.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 10, 2009 11:54 AM

After all, what does an NBA head coach do? Most don't spend a lot of time coaching the players, at least once the season starts. The game plans are largely the assistants', based on scout reports. The HC gets 'input' on personnel moves, but that's really the GMs call. Same with the draft. Playing time -- now there's something the HC can take responsibility for, if he wants. Jumping up and down and pretending to scream at the refs, that's important. Those 1.5 minute motivational harangues in the locker room, those are the HC. He leads the group clap at the end of a TO. He spends time with the media.

Correction: a lot of time with the media.

I guess it's not so much what the HC does as the tone he sets for others to implement. Does he emphasize defense? Try to outscore the other team? Favor a passing or a running game?

Most important, how does he look in a suit?

And how does he react when they inevitably toss him under the #37 bus?

Posted by: Samson151 | April 10, 2009 12:05 PM

I heard the JT show the other day and those guys were SPOT ON.

They did NOT say that the Wiz would be a bad destination for a coach. They said that any coach that comes in needs to be given the authority to control the team and call the shots on Gilbert Arenas, period.

So far Gilby has dictated most everything relating to his time with team/franchise over the years he's been here. He decides how he's gonna rehab, he decides when he's gonna play, he decides when he wants to play defense. He calls his own press conferences to tell everyone these things and the coach/team know nothing about it. And then he got $111 million; and then the coach got fired.

Whoever they bring in - be it Avery or Flip or someone else, needs to have the backing of the whole organization and the team to dictate to Gilbert what's going to go down, and not the other way around.

Posted by: p1funk | April 10, 2009 12:05 PM

I am curious as why it really matters what previous experience the head coach has. Saunders has coached a lot but never won it all, even with good teams. Johnson like mistake free basketball and therefore doesn't allow his teams to play loose. But look at two of the best east coast teams right now Boston and Cleveland, both head coaches while involved in the huddle at critical junctures are task masters. Mike Brown (yes he has Lebron) has his top two assistants function similar to the NFL Offensive and Defensive coordinators. As a result their offense and their defense both have improved consistently. The Wizards clearly need a Defensive Task-Master that would be a vote for Johnson. But with a mercurial G like Arenas and their other personnel they also need a flexible offensive scheme a vote for Saunders. But what if you grabbed a good personnel manager and had a short list of people that coach should look at for an O and D Assistant. The players (especially after a good draft) are here. How about Keith Smart with the Warriors for the O they are the 2nd highest scoring team in the NBA at 102.3 a game? As for the defense few coaches are “known” to the average fan. Cleveland, Boston, San Antonio all are tops in the league. Once you decide to use that bifurcated methodology a team can mix smothering defense and offensive firepower. And FYI Thompson won’t take the job, he’s too smart to risk his legacy and his casual lifestyle at this point.

Posted by: Hank4 | April 10, 2009 12:09 PM

I'd like to see Saunders here.

I'd would worry about how many games would be lost while trying to get a team with so many key players that abhor the defensive end of the court to accept a demanding defensive minded coach like Avery Johnson.

Avery could step in and coach a roster like the Spurs. That team is built with defense as it's focus. The Zards are definitely not constructed that way. The best we can hope for is to get them to focus in good defense at key points during a game, i.e. close of a half and close of a game.

I think otherwise, you will quickly alienate Gil and Jamison.

As this roster stands the Zards best defense is in effective offense.

Posted by: bozomoeman | April 10, 2009 12:23 PM

Does no one remember that Eddie Jordan tried to hire Thibedeaux before he went to Boston. Thibedeaux didn't want to coach in Washington.

Posted by: WashingtonEverythingFan

No, you got it wrong. It was EG who hired Thibedeau, not EJ. He backed out to prevent an awkward situation with EJ (at the time, he was hired with longer contract than EJ). Now EJ is gone, the reason for not coming to Washington is no longer there.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 10, 2009 12:35 PM

What about Larry Brown?
I think he will be the guy that can do it all, and I think The Wizards are ready for him. Give him 2 years contract will be wise, anyways he can't last more than 2 years.

Posted by: hbolanos | April 10, 2009 12:39 PM

bozomoeman,...probably the best post today and spot on.

Unless we plan on overhauling the roster, we had better get a guy who realizes that this team is built to score. We need a couple of defensive stalwarts in the lineup (DM and BTH) and we may need to situationally substitute Aj and CB out at times on defense.

But if our coach is trying to turn us into a top defensive team, it aint happening with this roster and starting lineup as is.

Posted by: original_mark | April 10, 2009 12:42 PM

Avery Johnson has a good record, but he inherited a good team, and the team got tired of him in less than 3 (full) seasons!

Saunders is obviously the most established coach out there. However, if we hire Saunders, I would like us to keep Ayer, or bring in a good defensive assistant coach.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 10, 2009 12:50 PM

Why are Wizards fans not absolutely incensed by Abe Pollin's extreme cheapness? When in the history of this town have we not gotten the coach we wanted because that coach was too expensive? This is simply ridiculous that Abe Pollin has refused to go over the luxury tax year after year (and last year we did not have a back up point guard nearly the entire season and did not even field a complete 15 man roster because Abe refused to go over the luxury tax). We haven't signed any players this season to 10-day contracts because Abe Pollin refuses to go over the limit.

And now we might not get our first choice for a head coach because Abe Pollin is so cheap. Wizards fans, get INCENSED!

Posted by: Barno1 | April 10, 2009 1:31 PM

I would like to see Flip in the job. Unfortunately my gut tells me Tom Thimbeau (spelling) the assistant from Boston who declined the defensive coach job 2 years ago. He opted out of an extenstion with Boston...he'll coach somewhere. I just hope not here

Posted by: Gooddad | April 10, 2009 1:55 PM

If I understand correctly, one of the reasons Abe Pollin (who by all accounts has weathered the financial crisis well) does not like to pay the luxury tax is the stigma of tax-paying teams as buying a championship team a la the Yankees rather than building one the old-fashioned way through a mix of creativity, wisdom, and good luck.

Posted by: emmet1 | April 10, 2009 9:10 AM

I don't know where on earth you came up with this, but it's flat out wrong. There is one reason Abe doesn't want to go over the luxury tax, it's the same reason we might not get our top choice for a head coach, and it's the same reason we did not keep Roger Mason last year. It's because Abe Pollin is one of the cheapest people on the face of the earth.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 10, 2009 1:56 PM

Avery Johnson is too religious for this WIzards squad! Go with Phillip "Flip" Saunders

Posted by: jeremydvid | April 10, 2009 1:58 PM

So the Wizards are poor by NBA standards and might not be able to afford Saunders. Looks ike Agent Zero has left the Wiz with $0 in the bank. Next to go is Haywood. If Haywood has a monster season the Wiz will not be able to afford his services. poor Wiz Juwan Howard syndrome yet again.

Posted by: jercha | April 10, 2009 2:16 PM

Haywood is due for a monster season (17 points, 9 rpg, 2 blocks, in 35min) as is often the case in a contract year. All the more reason to get Hasheem Thabeet to back him up, if not Blake Griffin.

Posted by: liveride | April 10, 2009 2:19 PM

Draft Bigs:

OK - 6’10” 252/lbs: Blake Griffin
UConn - 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet
Georgetown’s - 6’10” 235/lbs: Greg Monroe
Arizona - 6’10” 235/lbs Jordon Hill
ND - 6’8” 250/lbs: Luke Harangody
NC - 6’8” 245/lbs: Tyler Hansbrough

Posted by: liveride | April 10, 2009 2:21 PM

Goodbye Etan Thomas, Juan Dixon, Mike James and Pecherov, Hello Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, and/or Drew Gooden, Anderson Verajao, David Lee, Charlie V, Glen D, Jerryd Bayless.

Posted by: liveride | April 10, 2009 2:22 PM

How much of our problems on D is coaching? For the past three seasons we've watched our opponents take dozens of uncontested 3's each and every game.

Jamison and Butler are both a bit small for their positions and neither can consistently prevent their man from driving the lane. Everyone else is quite good at collapsing on the man who just beat AJ or Caron while leaving 2 players standing at the arc for an uncontested set shot.

A coach who preaches defense will not survive if AJ and Caron don't get better guarding the drives of perimeter players. And that's just not going to happen.

AJ Caron and Gil are our team, let's not hire a coach that preaches D; it simply isn't going to get better. Instead let's get a coach who will embrace the 110 points a game angle.

A Def focused coach will gravitate even more towards Songalia, Haywood, McGuire and Stevenson & Crit - that's not our where we put our money.

Our GM bet big on the big 3. We need a coach who can ride the O and just try to be realistic about D.

Flip Saunders with a zone D is the most sensible thing I've heard.

Posted by: cballer | April 10, 2009 2:24 PM


You caught my Military inference. You are right. My point is though that Gilbert would be the first to let the Coach know that he is ready to follow the gameplan.


Gill has yet to follow the previous wizzards coach let alone ET. Gill needs to learn now to play D plain and simple. One of the reasons Coach K cut his Arse from teh Olympic team... its not all about him
AKA HIBACHI STYLE!!!!! Over Rated 110 Million dollar flop..Tell him to play consecutive games first!

Posted by: rlomax67 | April 10, 2009 2:54 PM

EG is going to hire a coach who is 180 degrees from EJ...and I say amen to that. The last thing the Wiz need are more heads games. Thibodeau is clearly EG's first choice, but the deal is not done yet...Thibodeau may have his choice of 2 or 3 teams who want him next year.

Posted by: oddjob1 | April 10, 2009 2:59 PM

This is a tough call.

I like Avery Johnson bc he holds people accountable on defense, but is stifling on the offensive end, which is going to be counterproductive for this team. I like Flip Saunders bc he will maintain a high level of offensive play, but I'm not sure I'm sold on his defensive capabilities especially the zones he uses. How many teams have contended that heavily rely on zone defense in the NBA? None, that I can remember. The Pistons team he coached was already solid defensively. So, Flip was concentrating on producing more offense, but let the D slip enough that they never got to the championship again. He lost the team completely before he was let go.

I'd say neither are a perfect fit!

So, I guess you roll the dice and hope for the best. I like Mark Jackson as well bc I think he has the personality and ability to teach both sides of the basketball without being grating. But, he has no track record either and the question is can we afford to possibly lose a season to find out. Probably not.

It's a big decision for EG!

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 10, 2009 3:25 PM

With speculation on a head coach what about general manager? We might need one of those also.

Posted by: Bean1 | April 10, 2009 3:37 PM

Flip Saunders, Give me a break. He couldn't win with a Detroit team that was the best team in the East. Why because he didn't want Ben Wallace on his squad (Detroit was a great defensive team under Larry Brown and Flip messed that up). He couldn't win in Minnesota with Garnett. So now you want to bring him to the Wizzards. It sucks. Bring in somebody else. Maybe not Avery Johnson but, I would call the assistant at Boston first (defense wins championships, offense just gets you to the playoffs).

Posted by: michael1963 | April 10, 2009 3:44 PM


First, Abe is not the only one who is luxury tax averse. I believe him when he says he will if it brings in someone like Blake Griffin who could be the missing piece for us to be extremely competitive in the East. 10 day contract guys don't do anything expect play 10 mins a game max and with the luxury situation would have cost way too much.

Second, to call Abe cheap is extremely shortsighted. The man built the phone booth on his own dime in an age where owners force the citizens to foot the bill for arenas and stadiums and has given millions to charities in the district. Abe, in fact, is probably one of the least cheap people in the entire DC region and one of it's best citizens.

He is most guilty of poor management of the team or hiring poor management, but that was before he put EG in charge. A few people in here will foolishly disagree, but EG IS a top tier GM as proven by his track record in NY, Milwaukee, and here. Hell, neither of the aforementioned teams has been relevant in the NBA since he left those organizations and he made us relevant again in a short time with the exception of this injury plagued season.

Mark my words! Next year the vision will be on the court and causing some noise again in the East. Very relevant once again!

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 10, 2009 4:03 PM

First let me go on record as saying I agree that firing Eddie Jordan when they did was premature at the least. Unless you actually think you have the players to win now and you are not winning, what do you gain by firing your coach in November? If you want to take a look at how an assistant responds to the job, then you wait until later in the year when there is no pressure and then put him in the spot. If he and/or the team responds then he gets the job, if not then you fire him because the new coach will bring in his own assistants anyway.

I agree that unless a coach without a job really told them they wanted to take the year off, that they would have hired an established coach already, so an assistant is probably in the mix.

Of all the established head coaches I like Saunders the best. He has the most experience getting vets to play together. So he didn't win the whole thing, neither have about 26 other current head coaches who do have jobs. As far as I can see, Avery Johnson was a failure. He took over a team that everyone thought was the favorite to win it all, and didn't, and then year by year they got worse and worse.

I don't have a problem giving a guy with promise a chance, but he would need to be a special person to take on the personalities of this team on his first job. Mark Jackson has a strong personality so he may be able to do it, and Thibideaux might be able to do it as he a has experience on a team with 3 bonafide all stars sharing the ball as Washington has.

Though I agree with the sentiment of some of the posts saying Gilbert should be made to just play, I think maybe you need to take a psychology course and then watch some film of this team a few years ago when healthy. Then watch the film of Gilbets first game back comparedto anyother game this season. Though I agree everyone must have some boundaries, and you cannot give one guy free reign to do whatever he wants, when you have a star of this magnatude everyone knows he is going to get special treatment, and they accept it. Just ask the other stars on this team and you will se they would rather win, than worry about if Gilbert is getting special treatment.

The key is to win. Gilbert knows where the responsibility for that lies and will do what is needed to get that done as long as the coach seems to be guiding the rest of the team in the right direction. He has a burning desire that 111 million dollars will not put out. An MVP and Championship or two probably would.

This team has a chance to be very good for a very long time. Due to injuries to key players at key times over the last few years, and pretty good drafting, the team has a good core of veterans and young players with talent. With this years probably top 3 pick there will be another potential star. The new coach needs to be creative enough to get those players involved and keeping his vets healthy.

Posted by: dbrine1261 | April 10, 2009 4:09 PM

Ed: "except to play 10 mins"

Also, forgot to mention Abe signed Juwan Howard to one of the very first $100 million contracts in league history. I believe second to Garnett's. Again, that was mismanagement and a bad decision, but not a case of being cheap at all!

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 10, 2009 4:09 PM


I like your post. I would not say, however, the Mavs got worse and worse and worse. I believe it was 2 years ago they were the number 1 seed and lost to Nellie's GS Nugs. Yeah, they were upset by a very tough matchup for them and an 8 seed. But, again, they were the number 1 seed in the West! At that point, he had maxed out the potential of that team with Dirk even getting MVP consideration (how far fetched does that seem now?). They've definitely gotten worse since he left.

One could say that Flip's Pistons match the worse and worse and worse description a little better.

What's the best the Wiz have ever done in the Least? 4th seed?

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 10, 2009 4:23 PM

I also wanted to say that I whole heartedly agree with the guy defending Abe Pollin. If there were a Mount Rushmore of DC sports Icons he would be on it. He not only has built two arenas on his own dime in his tenure, but he brought Hockey to DC as well. When he built the MCI Center it not only was one of the best places to watch a game, but it revitalized a beaten down area of the city which now thrives. You bet he took advantage of Micheal Jordan playing to make some money. He deserved it. I really don't think money will be the issue in hiring a coach. If the team wins, it will more than recoup whatever extra they would pay for the right coach over a risky one and they know it. The first round pick is going to be very expensive however, and more than likely ends the Pecherov experiment or the Etan Thomas injury train. I like Thabeet as they already play pro ball at UCONN and he could be a defensive force right away. Griffin is very young but could be something big, and Hansbrough is over rated I think and not a game changer.

Posted by: dbrine1261 | April 10, 2009 4:23 PM


I am not endorsing Saunders by any means, I just don't think anyone responds to Avery's style. Yes he was the number 1 seed, with Nellies team. While he was in charge players left as fast as they could because of it. At least Saunders guys made it to the playoffs each year with a chance to win, and when they did fire him there was still a championship team left in place. If I am going to endorse someone it will be Thibideaux, but my guy feeling is there is someone else out there that they have their eye on after the season. Before Calipari went to Kenticky I was wondering if it was him. I wouldn't rule out a college coach, but I think it would be a bad idea unless maybe they can get Huggins or Self. I hear they are used to paying players anyway. lol

Posted by: dbrine1261 | April 10, 2009 4:29 PM

I also disagree with the guy that said our young players have not gotten better this year when they had the chance. I think Nick Young, Blatche, Mcgee, and Mcguire have all improved tremendously and are perfectly capable of coming off the bench at their positions. Add in a potential top draft pick and you have a pretty decent top 10 and that does not even include Etan Thomas who everyone thugh woulf be the starter two years ago, and super sub Juan Dixon. The guy I really quastion in the mix is Stephenson. I have never been impressed by him and I think we got caught up in a numbers game or he would be gone. I would consider drafting at that position instead of a big. I really think HAywood, Blatche, Thomas, Mcgee, and Mcguire should be able to take care of busines in the paint.

Posted by: dbrine1261 | April 10, 2009 4:39 PM


That was me defending Abe. So dumb of people to criticize what he has done for DC sports.

Good posts, but don't ever call Juan Dixon a super sub. Did you go to UMD? He is a terrible pro bc he can't get his shot off comfortably, can't handle the ball effectively, and can't make plays for anyone else. He is probably on his way out of the league. DS, when healthy, was a decent player and can defend and knock down the open three.

I've pointed out before that even Critt has a better shooting pct than Juan Dixon. Has anyone called JC a "shooter" at the NBA level yet? Not hardly. And that's the ONLY skill set that JD is supposed to bring to the table and he doesn't.

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 10, 2009 4:53 PM

As composed i don't think the Wiz have a championship caliber team. The coach will not matter as long as the Wiz have the big void of inside scoring and lock down defense!

i'll hope and root them on, but let's not forget every team in the East got considerably better. If they are going to stick with the outside shots of arenas, butler and jamison, they need an inside beast for defense and solid offensive scoring.

Posted by: oknow1 | April 10, 2009 5:18 PM

What do you think about Marc Iavaroni?

Posted by: dbrine1261 | April 10, 2009 5:18 PM


Agree on EG being one of the better GMs in the league. Disagree on just about everything else you wrote. First off, your assertion that "10 day contract guys don't do anything expect play 10 mins a game max" is simply ludicrous. Pops Mensa-Bonsu was signed to a 10-day contract a few weeks ago and played a big role in Toronto going on a tear the past few weeks. He's played significantly more than 10 minutes a game and has had some real huge performances (I'm talking 20+ points, double digit rebounds, etc). We could have had him, but no, Abe Pollin is too cheap.

Which brings me to my next point. While I agree that it was great of Abe to build Verizon with his own money and did wonders for that area of DC, let's not kid ourselves into thinking Abe got nothing out of it and this was simply an act of charity. I'm not sure if you are familiar at all with how real estate works, but when you build something, you own it and generally the value goes up over time. He owns Verizon Center, which means if he wanted to sell the team he could sell the arena as well, since the city doesn't own it.

So, again, I agree it was great of him to put up the money...but it doesn't make him one ounce less cheap. And you are only person I have ever encountered who tried to argue that Abe Pollin is not a cheap man. That's a very difficult argument to make.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 10, 2009 7:07 PM

Looks like I'm in the minority, or at least the minority of bloggers who believes that no coach of the 2009-10 Wiz can take this team deep into the playoffs, whether it be Phil Jackson, Riley, Joe Gibbs, or Earl Weaver, if still alive. The roster will not be that good.
In 2010-11, when the toxic contracts go away, Ernie may be able to swindle a player or two and get them to the Eastern finals, but the Wiz are 85 or more games away from anything real good. (I say "or more" only because this group could have qualified, this year, if healthy.)

Posted by: lrmc623 | April 10, 2009 7:45 PM


ummm...then you did not read dbrine in this very thread who said exactly what I said about Abe. He's not cheap. He's actually one of the most generous men in the NBA. I suppose you like Snyder's methods better which has led to no better results than Abe's. In fact, Abe has 1 championship to Snyder's 0. And, before this season his team had made the playoffs 4 yrs in a row. Can the Skins say the same? No.

So, you pull some bizarre examples out of your you know what as if it backs an argument that Abe's cheap. Who gives a you know what about Pops? Great...good for him. The reality was that we would have gone for a PG if anybody last year for a 10 day contract and it would not have made a damn bit of difference. And nobody would have made a difference this year either.

You got people on your payroll for 100 million, 50 million, 20 million? Have you built an arena downtown on your own dime? Have you turned around a whole section of the city? Did you bring an entirely new sport (hockey) to a city and suffer economic loss after loss for years with that franchise? Have you given millions away to charity Mr. Big Spender? No, did not think so!

Weak! Your argument is so lame. Your cheap, not Abe!

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 10, 2009 9:43 PM

I think that E.G. should really avoid the "big name" coach and take a look at a Mark Jackson. Just build a decent coaching staff around him. Now I am pretty sure that you bring in an assistant(Jeff VanGundy), another assistant(Avery J), either Sam Mitch or another HC let go somewhere to be in the ear of Coach Mark Jackson, you could really do something. The current coaching staff less Randy Ayers have not gotten the job done even with E.Jordan. And these are the ones that draw up the plays right!
At least Coach Jackson could be in the ear of his point guard, and groom J. Critt as well. J.VanGundy would love the opportunity to mentor young Coach Jackson.
I would really avoid the big name and work it another way. Holding the players accountable is where you will have to start. C.B. and Jamison have done their part. No problem with BTH. It's the youth, whom Coach Jackson along with good assistants could really motivate. If Gilbert wants to win and prove those out there that he is mature and has the ability to lead this team not just to the second round but to the Finals, it's all on him. Time to grow up and show and prove. His window is closing fast also.
Let's do this within a 3 year window, get that ring and do whatever after that. I am pretty sure that with this team with a few additions by subtraction (Thomas,James and my man Dixon sorry) Wiz fans will be more than happy with getting just 1 championship before Obama leaves office and not worry about another until...

IT2 Sparky, USN

Posted by: Doobie_Sparks | April 11, 2009 1:18 AM

They need a guy like Avery Johnson. The team needs someone who can bring some discipline and defense to the team. Without defense this team will not make it past first round of playoffs again. Flip Saunders will bring offensive but this team already has the offense.

Posted by: misremembered | April 11, 2009 2:35 PM

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