Wittman, Cassell Transcript
Here is the full transcript from Steve Yanda's interviews with Randy Wittman and Sam Cassell.
On his decision to join Flip Saunders's staff: I'm very excited. It's definitely going to be different, because for 15, 16 years I was looked upon as a player. Right now, my role has definitely changed to a coach right now. But I'm a leader by nature, and I think Flip brought me here to help him out. And I will help him out to the best of my ability. I'm just a couple months away from the game of basketball as a player, so I understand the trials and tribulations that the guys go through, so I can help relate that to Flip, the head coach.
On his experience helping him as a coach: It's going to help a lot, because there's no situation that those guys are going to be in that I haven't been in myself, personally as a player. Up 20 and lose by two in overtime, or down 20 and win by two in overtime. So I think I'll be valuable in that aspect of coaching. I don't have to tell them what I have done; they saw how I was as a player. Just trying to get everyone together on the same page is our goal as a coaching staff.
On Gilbert Arenas: I have talked to him. He's just enjoying his summer right now. Gilbert is a hard worker, so that's the part that we don't have to worry about. He's going to get his work in, get his shots up, and my job is just to get him to understand overall being a leader, and a leader starts by setting examples, and he understands that aspect of it. So the relationship that Gilbert and Flip and the staff are going to have is going to be wonderful, and we should win some games this year.
On why he wanted to become a coach: It's been a passion of mine since my fifth year in the league. I always knew that once I stopped playing the game of basketball as a player that coaching was going to be my next avenue. I mentioned that to Flip a long time ago when I was playing under him in Minnesota. Once he got the call here, he called me. I'm familiar with Ernie Grunfeld. He was my general manager for five years in Milwaukee, so I'm very familiar with how he works and what he likes to do. One thing I know about him - he loves to win. It was a hard year for him this year; it was a hard year for everyone in the organization, what the team went through. But with this year coming, with our guys healthy, we just got to keep them healthy and have a wonderful season.
On what he learned working with the Celtics this past season: It was difficult, but I understood. I learned so much from Doc Rivers, because Doc knew that I wanted to be a coach in this league, so he showed me, you know, This is your last year, Sam, so these are some things that you're going to have to adjust to, not playing as much. So I was in the coaches meetings in Boston, I was in the majority of the huddles, helping him make some decisions, he asked me my opinions about certain things that went on on the court, and I gave it to him.
On his reunion with Flip Saunders: I'm excited. Flip and I have been together over the years. We've haven't worked together now for a couple of years, but it's good to be back with him and it's a good situation here. I think, even though it was a tough year last year with record, with injuries, with everything that goes into that, the foundation of what this team has is exciting. So as a coach, that's always part of your job is what can you do and what are the opportunities here for this team. Obviously health, which you never have control over, plays a big part, but we get these guys back healthy, I think this is a team that can do a lot of damage.
On how his past experience as a head coach will help: My first days as an assistant coach and then becoming a head coach, moving over just 18 inches is a big deal. You have an understanding of dealing with the media every day and what that's all about and having an understanding of that to where I can really step in when things sometimes get out of whack for a head coach; you kind of see those things before they develop and kind of can help a coach through those type of things.
On how the game has changed since he entered the league in 1983: When I was in the league, I think it was a more physical game. There was the Bad Boys, Detroit, and all their run through their back-to-back championships. Early in my career it was the Lakers, obviously, and being a run-and-gun team, but always against the Celtics, who were a physical, beat-you-up team. And we've kind of evolved now out of that. You know, with the touch fouls and the no contact, and to try to get some more freedom into the game, I think that's really where this game has changed. I think the athletes have changed. You're seeing more and more seven-foot guys who are playing out on the floor. The Kevin Garnetts, the players of that nature who can play multiple positions. Early on, you were either a point guard or a shooting guard or ... you know, today you've got guys who can sometimes play the 1-4 positions.
On the development of young stars, like Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant: The good players - and Kevin (Durant) is obviously a good player. I think what he's done early on in his career, I think he's going to show that he's going to adapt and learn, and usually that's what distinguishes the good players from the great players, how they adapt. Everybody says Kobe would have not been able to survive going through the beating that Michael Jordan went through early in his career. Eh, I think Kobe's good enough that he would have adapted and learned. Kevin Garnett could play in any era, even though he's a slender player. In all the years I spent with him in Minnesota, he adapts.
On his reunion with Sam Cassell: Back with Sammy. I was lucky to coach Sam for two years in Minnesota. The first year there obviously being a situation where I think I really believe today that if Sam doesn't get hurt in the playoffs that year that we would have won the championship that year when we went to the conference finals and got beat by the Lakers. I know who Sam is. Sam's always kind of had that in him when he was a player. He was kind of a coach on the floor and understanding where guys needed to be and helping them learn how to do that. This was not a surprise to me to see that Sam wanted to get into this as his playing career came to an end.
On his strengths and weaknesses as a coach: Well, I've done a lot of different things. I think that's really my expertise. I don't think you're going to label me as an offensive coach or a defensive coach. I've been in those positions, as well as a head coach and trying to organize all that. I think it's my versatility and what I can do and what Flip wants me to do. And that's going to evolve as he continues to put his staff together, the strengths and weaknesses of each of us and how that's going to develop with this team. Is it going to be more defensive? Is it going to be more offensive? Is it going to be more guard-oriented? Is it going to be more big man-oriented? I've had the luxury of being in this league going on 26, 27 straight years now without missing a beat. To have that opportunity where I've done a little bit of all that. I think as Flip continues to fill out his staff and see what each of us present, those things will be brought forth.
More on Sam: We've talked a little bit. Enthusiasm's obviously the No. 1 thing, and that's something Sam doesn't lack. As we move forward with this, in the summertime especially, this is a good time for guys like Sam with games in the summer league after the draft, working with our young guys throughout the summer that we already have here on this team is a time to lay your foundation of learning the steps. Because it is totally different. I remember my last year as a player, I went into coaching the very next year and it's different. Sam's going to see that. It's not the two hours you put in the gym at practice and then go out and go to the movies. It's a 24/7 job now. But Sam's got that energy, and that's what this job takes. You've got to have energy and enthusiasm for this job, because it's not just the two hours we put in the gym; it's the breaking the film down and teaching guys individually. I think he's going to be great at it.
On the Wizards' young players: The thing about our team that I think it unique is, you know, everybody wants to talk about Gilbert and Antwan and Butler and the guys that have been in the league and have established themselves. Obviously those guys are very important parts, but we've got some young pieces here, too, that we have to develop. The league's changed also in that direction. We've got so many more young players in this league now. When I came out, Magic was the first guy to come out after his sophomore year. Then we had kids coming out after high school, which we eliminated that. Now at least they have to spend a year. But they don't have that thing that you get in college where you get the breakdown and teaching of how to play. We have to provide that; there's no question. And that's changed throughout the years. It used to be, you knew how to get up and deny the wing, you knew how to box out, you knew how to slide. You can't take that for granted anymore.
On what's next for Flip's staff: The teaching part comes now in teaching Flip's system (to the veteran players). They've kind of seen everything, being through different coaches. The majority of these players - I mean Eddie was here for a number of years and Eddie is a very solid coach. That's always a positive, following somebody that has done a job like Eddie did. Eddie had success with these guys, and I think we'll see that. But it's a teaching now of a whole new system, and that breaks down almost sometimes to footwork. Certain footwork works well in one system and it doesn't in this system. So you will still have those breakdown principles, but more towards what kind of system we're in.
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