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Flip Saunders talks “disappointing” end to Wizards tenure

Jan 24, 2012, 4:23 PM EST

File photo of Washington Wizards coach Saunders during an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston Reuters

Flip Saunders was frustrated. Diplomatic, usually, but frustrated. Considered a players coach most of his career (and more passive, not a yeller), he was brought into Washington to coach a veteran team with Caron Butler, Gilbert Areas — a team that had made the playoffs the year before.

Then in one instance of stupidity, the Wizards were quickly thrown into rebuilding mode. And Saunders was given some headstrong — read: unprofessional — young players that he admitted after Monday’s loss to the Sixers that he was having trouble getting through to.

Saunders was fired by the Wizards Tuesday. He spoke with the Washington Post Tuesday and expressed disappointment with the results in a changing situation.

“It’s disappointing never being able to finish the job. It’s always disappointing when your won-loss record isn’t there, so changes in this situation are not unusual. It happened this morning.

“I was disappointed. When I took this job, there were very much unique challenges. Usually the focus was, I believe we had the opportunity to coach a veteran team that had a chance to make a run into the playoffs. That job description changed drastically, when we experienced the gun in the locker room situation. We went from a job with a totally different challenge, to all of a sudden survival mode, then immediately after that, into a developmental situation. I felt comfortable because I’ve developed a lot of young players over my career and it’s extremely challenging to develop so many players at the same time.”

There was no development. For example, John Wall seems to have taken a step back this year, a year most people expected him to explode.

Part of that is on Saunders, but part of it is the players he had to develop — this was not a good locker room situation. There are guys who know how to prepare and win at the NBA level and some may not want to really learn. Much of this falls on GM Ernie Grunfeld, who so far has evaded much trouble from owner Ted Leonsis. But that time maybe is ending. Grunfeld has built a dysfunctional roster and had the wrong coach for the team.

  1. goforthanddie - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    The blame needs to be shared.
    Biatche should have been dumped long ago, he’s shown no desire to improve. You can’t make someone better if they don’t care.
    Flip may be a “players’ coach”, or maybe a “mature players’ coach”. Which this team certainly isn’t.
    EG has managed to gather talent. Theoretically, Wall/McGee/Biatche should be a nice core to build on, but they aren’t growing. They need a coach who can get through thick young skulls and it’s EGs job to get that coach.
    Leonsis is rebuilding the right way, but he let Flip stick around way too long (and probably EG too). It’s his team. Props to him not being a Jerry Jones, but he should’ve seen long ago what he had wasn’t working, everybody else did.

  2. dieseltrain - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    EG is to blame.

  3. willardj - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    Once again, Flip refuses to place any blame on himself. It’s always excuse after excuse with this guy.

  4. willcoop - Jan 24, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    The team is an absolute train wreck. There does not seem to be any leaders on the team that’s filled with circus clowns. The best thing at this point is to find a good GM and a head coach with a whip and a chair.

  5. leearmon - Jan 24, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    They need to blow the whole thing up, including firing Grunfeld (Or in his case probably letting his contract run out) And start a proper rebuild, by hiring Kevin Pritchard first! I still don’t know how he is still out of a job. But they cannot let Ernie make their pick(s) this year in the draft. He is one of the worst drafting GM’s of all-time. Yes Redd and Blatche are great picks considering they both were in the 2nd round, but after that???? Wall was a no-brainer, Jan Vesley and Kevin Serephin??? not so much.

  6. bossmangunny - Jan 24, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    Paul Westphal and Flip Saunders fired…Mike Dantoni has apparently been given the doubt..for now.

  7. mjbulls45 - Jan 24, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    it’s the players not the coach.

    the coach has already proven success elsewhere, so its not coaching.

    he will bounce back elsewhere

  8. lorddarkhelmet - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    The coach has not been a “success” elsewhere. He did a good job in Minni but you could argue that for a while he had more talent on his team than results would show. his time with the Pistons was a horrible failure. Flip is what he is, someone who can take an underperforming vet team and make them into a playoff team. Don’t give him young players and don’t expect a championship.

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