Flip Saunders Update

I just wanted to check in with an update on the Flip Saunders situation. There is no done deal until a deal is done, but the Wizards have made an offer to Saunders to be their next coach and hope that something can be resolved before the end of the week, according to a league source.

From what I hear, the Wizards have offered Saunders a contract that is in the ballpark but will pay him less than the $5 million average salary he made with the Detroit Pistons the past four seasons. It is still a rather healthy offer given the state of the economy and that the team is still obligated to pay Eddie Jordan next season, unless Jordan can get a lucrative deal with a team like his rumored destination, Sacramento. Despite their unsavory salary cap situation, the Wizards still felt the need to make Saunders a comfortable offer. "You get what you pay for in this league," the source said.

One of the holdups at this point is the number of years; whether it's going to be three or four. Three years makes the most sense, since Jamison is signed through 2012 and Arenas can opt out that same season. If something cannot be worked out with Saunders -- and right now, there is no indication that this will not happen -- the Wizards will move on to the next man in line, which sounds like Avery Johnson.

The Wizards did not want to replace an accomplished coach like Jordan with someone who has not accomplished more, at least in the postseason. And, Saunders is arguably the best candidate available, considering his experience and playoff success. Yes, he's never won a championship, but the list of coaches with rings is rather short.

Only four active coaches have championship rings -- Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown and Doc Rivers -- and Rudy Tomjanovich isn't coming out of retirement, so the Wizards had to go with the best of the rest. They don't want to risk placing a veteran roster in win-now mode into the hands of a novice, which is a major reason they've keyed in on Saunders.

Johnson has taken a team the NBA Finals, but Saunders is the first choice primarily because of his strengths as an offensive innovator. Saunders is not noted for his defense, but his teams were never terrible on that end of the floor (it didn't hurt that he coached Kevin Garnett and the defensive-minded Pistons). The Wizards view him as the best fit.

This thing should get done pretty soon. Stay tuned.

By Michael Lee |  April 13, 2009; 9:22 AM ET
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Comments

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Get it done Ernie

Posted by: DMoney28 | April 13, 2009 9:31 AM

In gambling terms this would be known as a 'Safe Bet.'

Of course, when you are gambling they say there are no Safe Bets.

Maybe Flip turns us down and we move to the next Safe Bet, Avery as indicated.

But hell yawl', I'm LarryInClintonMD, I say, Let' It' Ride.' Run and Gun, Shake and Bake, Let's Go Back', In Yo' Face Baby...Bet It All!

Bet It All on MARK JACKSON!!!

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 13, 2009 9:45 AM

Dear Lord baby Jesus

please let Ernie gitr done, shake n bake, amen

Posted by: WizardsExtreme | April 13, 2009 9:52 AM

no whammies no whammies no whammies

Posted by: bryc3 | April 13, 2009 10:11 AM

Flip Saunders? I'd rather have Avery Johnson scoring isn't the problem with the team it's team defense Offense wins games but defense wins championships. Plus I think that a thorough search needs to take place Mark Jackson is out there it's some young assistants that are out there. Flip took down the Pistons after they won it all. and Detroit still is bouncing back.

Posted by: donaldtaylor | April 13, 2009 10:17 AM

Avery should be the guy. This team is horrible defensively and without D, the Wiz will be lucky to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Offense does not win championships.

Posted by: BulletsFan1 | April 13, 2009 10:19 AM

Since sanders made it to the conference finals with the ex-Wizards (Rasheed & Ben Wallace,Rip Hamilton,Darvin Ham ), let's see what he can do with these current players.We know we have 1st round playoff talent & Sanders get's his teams beyond the 1st round.He is an offensive minded coach & we have plenty of offensive minded players,so his 1st main assistant coach should be a defensive specialist.

Posted by: dcpirate11 | April 13, 2009 10:29 AM

Even though Flip is not my vote, I believe though that Defense will be much improved with him as coach.

And yes I know you're saying anything would be an improvement with this bunch, but I'm talking Defense good enough to challenge deep into the playoffs and possibly the championship game in the east.

I know a lot of you are aware of what the prognosticators are saying about the Wizs.

They are saying that completely healthy, this Team is easily a top four Team in the East next year.

Yes, I am gloating, 'cause I been saying it too.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 13, 2009 10:39 AM

A good team makes the coaches look good. When we were healthy EJ looked like a great coach. When we weren't he looked terrible. Flip will be scrutinized in the same light. Get healthy, get good, then get praise.

Posted by: BurgwithaU | April 13, 2009 10:45 AM

Saunders zone defense helped K.G when he was with Minny, maybe it could do the same for the Wiz. We already know the alternative. Everyone is yelling Avery but he would get tuned out before the season is done.Ernie made a good pick lets see what kind of staff they build.

Posted by: wiz313 | April 13, 2009 11:11 AM

What is this negativity that Flip won't get the Wiz a championship? I think the next step is getting the team back in the playoff and not about the trophy. That will take years!!! Surely hiring FS is getting the team back in the right direction.

Posted by: Dave381 | April 13, 2009 11:26 AM

"The Wizards did not want to replace an accomplished coach like Jordan with someone who has not accomplished more, at least in the postseason. And, Saunders is arguably the best candidate available, considering his experience and playoff success."
- Michael Lee

Is that a joke? Avery Johnson coached only a couple seasons and got his team into the NBA finals and was a few bad calls away from winning the whole thing. I do believe that Saunders will coach the team up and be productive in the regular season but the goal is to advance in the post season, something Flip has rarely ever done even though he had some of the better players in the NBA under his direction.

Posted by: sjp879 | April 13, 2009 11:28 AM

"Is that a joke? Avery Johnson coached only a couple seasons and got his team into the NBA finals and was a few bad calls away from winning the whole thing."

Is that a joke? His team was up 2 games to none and then proceeded to lose 4 straight. That's a lot more than "a few bad calls away."

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 13, 2009 11:38 AM

The Wiz are what we thought they are: An offensive team. Look the Wiz have not gotten out of the first round, since we let Jarred Jeffries leave in free agency. The Wiz can do damage in the playoffs if we do 2 things: 1. Get a better starting SG and 2. not face Lebron or D-Wade in the playoffs. If those 2 things happen then we can go deep in the playoffs if 3. we're healthy.

Posted by: shines3955 | April 13, 2009 11:44 AM

What about Terry Porter?

Posted by: mcsobran | April 13, 2009 11:54 AM

Nope, no joke. Johnson coached the Mavs for three years and got his team, which consisted of a soft German and a bunch of role players, to constantly over achieve. In htree eyars as the Mavs coach he is post season record is stellar compared to that of Flip's and Avery did it in the Western Conference.

Posted by: sjp879 | April 13, 2009 12:09 PM

This is a great fit for the Wizards. We are loaded offensively and Flip will use that to his advantage.

I hope that he is able to bring in a defensive specialist assistant to help teach JaVale to play D and not try to catch outlet passes on the break, among other weaknesses this team has on that end.

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | April 13, 2009 12:18 PM

Nice job dodging the question.

I didn't ask about Johnson's post season record. I was talking about your ridiculous comment that the Mavs were only "a few bad calls" away from winning it all. Nonsense. They collapsed in the Finals then came back the next season and proceeded to get bounced in the first round by a team that barely made the playoffs after finishing the regular season with the best record in the NBA. The biggest upset in NBA playoff history.

Johnson is a good coach, no question, but the idea that he's some kind of minted in gold all-time winner is a fantasy.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 13, 2009 12:20 PM

As for overachieving . . . the Pistons are the poster boys for it. They're the only team since (arguably) the 78 Sonics to win a title without a single surefire ballot HoF player anywhere on their roster, and one of the very few in league history. They played over their heads to win the first title in '04 against the Lakers (with some help from a weak Eastern Conf., injuries and in-fighting and feuding among the Lakers, and a lucky Derek Fisher shot that saved them from having to play the Spurs in the Finals). The Pistons were a very good team, but they were hardly a great one, and their (and Joe Dumars') inability to realize that is the main reason they started to slide. Unlike the Spurs, Lakers, or Cavs, they made no significant moves to shore up their holes, address their needs, or get better after winning the title. The rolled with the same core group of guys who got older and slower every year.

Like I said, Saunders is a good, not great, coach who certainly has his weaknesses. But anyone who thinks he's to blame for what happened to the Pistons wasn't paying close enough attention. They played right to their level under Saunders. The reason they couldn't get out of the conf. Finals was because the rest of the top East teams got better and they didn't. They simply weren't good enough at that point to go further.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 13, 2009 12:31 PM

I see two general trains of thought here:

(a) Wiz are an offensive team, so Flip will be a natural fit

(b) Wiz are a bad defensive team, so Avery will help improve that.


Both points of view have logic and merit. I personally prefer Flip because I like to see teams go with their strength and I don't know how well this team would respond to the hard-ass type, which Avery (reportedly) can be. Flip has shown that he can get along with some colorful personalities, which he'd certainly be inheriting here. Plus, wouldn't it be fun to watch Gil's talent emerge under an explosive offensive system?

Of course, Gil's health (and perhaps the fate of our ping pong ball) is more important than whoever they choose.

Posted by: doogiex | April 13, 2009 12:31 PM

"They're the only team since (arguably) the 78 Sonics to win a title without a single surefire ballot HoF player anywhere on their roster..."

Obviously, that should be the '79 Sonics; 1978 was the Bullets' year, of course

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 13, 2009 12:33 PM

Has anyone else noticed how the Wizards coverage has improved by light years since Michael Lee took over? I actually now enjoy reading his balanced and informative reporting. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | April 13, 2009 12:33 PM

larryinclinton: "I know a lot of you are aware of what the prognosticators are saying about the Wizs. They are saying that completely healthy, this Team is easily a top four Team in the East next year."

I haven't heard that, and I sure hope so, but frankly, I'm not seeing it yet. Mainly for two reasons: 1) they've got too many guys coming off injuries and 2) the kids haven't matured enough yet.

I know, I know, somebody is going to howl that this is Tapscott's fault, but I think it might be true nonetheless.

Like I said, I'm hoping I'm wrong.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 13, 2009 12:48 PM

Win championships? Let's start with just winning some games.

Posted by: AsstGM | April 13, 2009 12:57 PM

"As for overachieving . . . the Pistons are the poster boys for it."

Not really. Yes, they don't have a sure HOF but 3 yrs. ago under Saunders they have 4 All-Stars and the best starting five in the league. Their defensive captian (Tayshaun Prince) should have been in the All Star game in my opinion. The following year they choked and lose to the Lebron James' led Cavaliers in the playoffs. Cleveland team at that time was not as talented and deep team as this year's version.

Posted by: Dave381 | April 13, 2009 1:31 PM

Ha....Maybe Gen Auremia might coach the Wiz!!! He holds no punches...keeps egos in check and produces championships...Oh wait he coaches girls basketball...BUT WAIT his teams play DEFENSE AND ARE THE HIGHEST SCORING TEAM IN THE NATION. I have heard time and time again that the players wanted to be treated like men but they havent stepped up like men. Pat Summit didnt have the best year but shoot she had 7 rookies on the team and still won more games then the WIZ...LOL! Lastly Maybe Dan Snyder would be out the WIZ...Atleast he is not scared to go over the luxury tax and will spend some money! Although he is a bonehead to....NO HOPE!
Im still a die hard wiz fan have been even thru the days of rod strickland and the michigan dibacle (webber and howard) we got! I think if Avery got hear he could talk to Mr. Arenas about being undervauled, underappreciated, and becoming the leader of a championship squad. I think he can get him to play with a controlled chip on his shoulder and get him to First Team NBA status! I also think he can get more out of Nick Young and would appreciate a player like McGuire more then Saunders!

Posted by: SkinzFan4lyfe | April 13, 2009 2:00 PM

Okay, why dont you take a stance and tell us who you want then?

Posted by: sjp879 | April 13, 2009 2:49 PM

In choosing between Flip Saunders & Avery Johnson - you can't go wrong. Though, if Saunders is not defense-minded, why is he ahead of Avery Johnson? Isn't defense (or lack of) our main problem?

Again, either way, we should be greatly improved next year over this year's what 20 (maybe) win season.

Posted by: agupta1 | April 13, 2009 3:08 PM

kalorama: "His team was up 2 games to none and then proceeded to lose 4 straight. That's a lot more than "a few bad calls away."

And really, it's what got him fired. Apparently there's such as losing, and then there's LOSING. The Mavs were in the second category.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 13, 2009 3:41 PM

"And really, it's what got him fired. Apparently there's such as losing, and then there's LOSING. The Mavs were in the second category."

Losing in the Finals the way they did is probably what started the process of mutual doubt between Johnson and the players and the owner, but getting punked by Golden State in the first round the next season (after finishing the regular season with the best record in the NBA) is what really dug AJ's grave.

"The following year they choked and lose to the Lebron James' led Cavaliers in the playoffs. Cleveland team at that time was not as talented and deep team as this year's version."

No, but they were better than they were the season before and legitimately better than Detroit, if for no other reason than because they had a HoF superstar in Lebron. Meanwhile the Pistons failed to make any significant roster upgrades after winning the title. They pretty much stood pat every offseason until this one, when they added Iverson, which blew up in their face. They didn't shore up their bench or add to their usable depth. They just grinded on their core guys and failed to provide enough support. They got older and more worn down and failed to improve.

As for having 4 all-stars . . . big deal. Part of the reason why they got 4 guys into the All-Star team was because they won the title. If those same guys had put up the same numbers on another team, they probably wouldn't have ended up on the All-Star team.

Oh, and if Flip gets the blame for the Pistons "choking" in the conf. Finals, shouldn't Avery get the blame for the Mavs choking in the first round after getting to the Finals the previous year and then coming back and winning more regular season games than any other team?

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 13, 2009 10:55 PM

"No, but they were better than they were the season before and legitimately better than Detroit"

I disagree. Besides Lebron and big Z who else will the team rely on? Damon Jones? Varejao? One thing for sure that Cav's team beat a team that has much more experience and a better team than them.

"As for having 4 all-stars . . . big deal."

Okay, name me another team that has 4 all-stars. I believe the Celtics (Bird, Mchale, Parish and DJ or Ainge) and them so I guess they are in a very limited category.

Posted by: Dave381 | April 14, 2009 10:38 AM

"Besides Lebron and big Z who else will the team rely on?"

Doesn't matter who else they had, because they had LeBron. He was the difference. He essentially won that playoff series against Detroit by himself. That's what having a first ballot HoF superstar will do for you. Did Detroit have a greater number of more talented players than the Cavs? Probably. Did they have anyone who could come close to doing what Lebron does? Not even.

"Okay, name me another team that has 4 all-stars. I believe the Celtics (Bird, Mchale, Parish and DJ or Ainge) and them so I guess they are in a very limited category."

And Bird and McHale were both HoF/50 greatest ever players. See the point?

The Pistons did a great job winning the title in '04, but it's pretty clear that they had some breaks, beat some odds, and played over their heads to do it. Realistically, they were never going to be a team that won multiple titles without the addition of a game-changing star, which they never had. Winning that title was the peak for that team. Without any additions or upgrades to their roster following the title, they weren't good enough to overcome elite teams who had those kinds of players (Duncan, Lebron, Shaq, Wade, Garnett, Pierce). It's just that simple.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 14, 2009 10:54 AM

"Did Detroit have a greater number of more talented players than the Cavs? Probably."

Probably??? as in maybe? Are you serious? Check their lineup again and get back to me on that.

My point is the Pistons were favored to win on that Cavs series which they lose in 6 games. Overachievers, I say no.

"And Bird and McHale were both HoF/50 greatest ever players. See the point?"

Are you comparing the 2006 Cavs to the Celtics of the 80's...Hillarious.

Posted by: Dave381 | April 14, 2009 11:49 AM

"My point is the Pistons were favored to win on that Cavs series which they lose in 6 games. Overachievers, I say no. "

Again, my point is that they overachieved by winning the title in '04. Losing to the Cavs is irrelevant to that simple fact.

"Are you comparing the 2006 Cavs to the Celtics of the 80's...Hillarious."

Are you actually expecting such an obvious and flimsy straw man to hold together? Ridiculous.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 14, 2009 12:54 PM

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