Flip Closing In on Coaching Staff

Flip Saunders told me in Secaucus that he has yet to settle on his coaching staff, but it appears that two guys are close to coming to terms since former NBA player Sam Cassell and former Minnesota Coach Randy Wittman helped run workouts today at Verizon Center. Something official will probably be announced this afternoon or tomorrow.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I was just told by two plugged in sources that Phil Hubbard, Randy Ayers and Dave Hopla will not return next season. My sources said that those three have already been informed that their contracts will not be renewed after they expire on June 30 and that all three are already looking for employment elsewhere. Wes Unseld Jr. is still under contract and will be back, I'm told.

Hubbard joined former Coach Eddie Jordan's staff in July 2003 and helped the team make four consecutive trips to the postseason. Hopla and Ayers both joined the staff in August 2007 and were instrumental in helping the Wizards win 43 games despite Gilbert Arenas's extended absence two seasons ago. Hopla, a renowned shooting instructor and player development assistant, helped players like Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler improve from the free throw line, while Ayers, a Larry Brown disciple, was credited with the Wizards' improved defense in 2007-08.

Gene Banks, a former Duke star who played for Saunders in the CBA and later San Antonio and Chicago in the NBA, also ran workouts this afternoon. But it was unclear if he will be part of the staff. One of my sources told me that Saunders' son, Ryan, will also join the Wizards in some capacity, either on the bench or as a video coordinator. He was a graduate manager last season under Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota.

Cassell, 38, is a Baltimore native who won three championships in a 15-year career with Houston, Phoenix, Dallas, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston. He was a member of the Celtics last season, but did not appear in any games and served as pseudo-assistant for Doc Rivers before getting traded to Sacramento, where he was later waived.

Wittman, a former first-round pick of the Washington Bullets in 1983, was a long-time assistant under Saunders in Minnesota and has also been a head coach in Cleveland. He was fired as coach of the Timberwolves last December after a 5-25 start.

By Michael Lee |  May 21, 2009; 2:08 PM ET
Previous: The Options At No. 5 | Next: It's Official: Cassell and Wittman Join Staff


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why wouldnt they want to take Dave Hopla back?? he did wonders for BTH i feel like.. he helped him out alot with his FT shooting..

Posted by: WizSkinsFan | May 21, 2009 2:16 PM

Wasn't Hopla all the rage two summers ago? Do they feel like the guys no longer listen to him?

Posted by: lameotron | May 21, 2009 2:23 PM

I'm a little shocked Hopla isn't returning. My understanding had been that he did a great job improving the shooting of McGuire (midrange), Haywood (free throws), and Butler (3 pt).

Posted by: manifested | May 21, 2009 2:28 PM

I think that is the SOP in this age that when you hire a new coach he'll likely bring in people that he truly knows and comfortable with as asst coaches. With that said, I'm still surprise that they didn't rehire Hopla as a shooting coach.

Can they just buy out JUNIOR's contract or just put him in a place far away from the Wizard's bench?

Posted by: Dave381 | May 21, 2009 2:36 PM

1) we need a big man's coach
2) we ought to send Tapscott to Timbuktu

Posted by: Izman | May 21, 2009 3:25 PM

From what I've read in the past, Wittman is a tough minded task master. He could be just what the doctor ordered with these young guys.

Posted by: flohrtv | May 21, 2009 3:38 PM

What a farce again, why is Unseld Jr. returning when Hopla is not?

Mom and Pop shop all over again.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | May 21, 2009 4:21 PM

Anyone care to comment regarding the newest Chad Ford rumor??


Wizards trading McGee+5th pick to OKC for the 3rd pick and the intention of drafting Rubio.

I get the feeling that we must really, really value Rubio.

Posted by: hour36 | May 21, 2009 4:23 PM

terrible trade.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | May 21, 2009 4:35 PM

Why did we fire the best shooting coach in the game?

Posted by: AWizinLA | May 21, 2009 4:39 PM

I'll be done if the Wiz trade JaVale and pick for Rubio alone, just a bad trade rumor I hope.

Posted by: zxhoya | May 21, 2009 4:43 PM

Needless to say i am not impressed with this staff(one career loser(Whitman) and the ET look-a-like contest winner(Cassell) Hopla helped the team improve as a whole, Hubbard was on board for four straight playoff appearances(lets see Flip duplicate that feat) and Hubbard also helped Haywood improve year to year,Flip had Kevin Garnett and then he inherited a veteran Piston squad that was playoff tested, so Flip had better be in the playoffs with the Wizards this upcomming season no excuses!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 21, 2009 4:48 PM

What if the third pick ends up being Thabeet? We'd be trading away the 5th pick and JM for just Thabeet? Thanks but no thanks.

How about substituting Pech instead of JM?

Posted by: yop32 | May 21, 2009 4:51 PM

I have to agree with dc_man about the mom and pop show with the Wiz, keeping Unseld jr. and firing Hopla is just stupid and bad business.

Posted by: zxhoya | May 21, 2009 4:51 PM

Unseld jr was not going any where and folks arounds here should have known that. Unseld Jr. will be a GM, director of or VP of player something in due time.

Posted by: oknow1 | May 21, 2009 5:04 PM

EG is a joke as a GM most of you with any basketball acumen should know that, a coach(Hopla)who improved team shooting overall and more importantly free throw shooting would be considered an asset only here in this town would he be shown the door.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 21, 2009 5:28 PM



Posted by: iamse7en | May 21, 2009 5:50 PM

I see three options with the 5th pick with the Wizards and here they are.

1.if you want Blake Griffin bad enough you trade Jamison along with Blatche and possibly james and the 5th overall pick for him.
2. you give up the same combination of players for Kevin Love.

3. you stay at 5 and you Draft Dawan Blair of Pittsburgh so he can start at the power forward.

Posted by: rmnkevorkian | May 21, 2009 10:33 PM

I love watching JaVale McGee play and I do think he will be a star or close to it in the NBA. But the fact of the matter is that he is around three years away from being a significant, polished contributor, by which time Gilbert and Caron will be well over 30 and Antawn will be closer to 40 than to 30.

The Wizards cannot afford to wait much longer and they need some difference-making players now. Just because Ricky Rubio is from southern Europe and not the playgrounds of Philly or DC does not mean he has no game. The kid can play, really play, and he has four years of high level competition under his belt.

That said, I would definitely NOT trade the #5 pick and McGee to OKC for the #3 pick if that would turn out to be anyone OTHER THAN Rubio (as someone else said, why would you trade JaVale for Thabeet?). And I would try like hell to convince OKC that Andray Blatche can deliver more for them sooner (pun intended) than JaVale... but if it takes JaVale to get Rubio, I'd do it.

Posted by: khrabb | May 22, 2009 4:14 AM

f__k that trade. Javale has too much upside. The wiz have a good core of youth and vets. The vets just got to stay healthy. Just like last year, if Gil goes down, they gonna be mediocre at best, I dont care who they realistically add to the team.

Posted by: G-Man11 | May 22, 2009 8:02 AM

I like the trade of #5 pick & Javalay McGee
only if we could be sure that Ricky Rufio is going to be there at #3, how would we know ?

If we lose Javalay we could just resign a more mature and official silverback like Jahidi White to replace him.

Posted by: slipperyrichard | May 22, 2009 9:17 AM

This is very good!

Posted by: suesue8709 | May 28, 2009 5:58 AM

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