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.
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