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Randy Wittman goes from losingest coach of all time to… still losingest coach of all time, but also one of the postseason’s winningest

May 13, 2014, 7:06 PM EDT

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards - Game Three Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Fourteen years ago, Andre Miller was a rookie playing for first-year head coach Randy Wittman’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Miller saw Wittman repeatedly get frustrated with a difficult roster, the coach frequently flashing what would become known as #WittmanFace.

But, sometimes, Wittman’s unhappiness went further.

“Temper tantrum,” Miller said.

Any signs of that in Washington, where Wittman now coaches the Wizards and Miller is again his backup point guard?

“No,” Miller said. “He gets frustrated, but he does a good job of mixing positive criticism with correcting things that need to be done the right way. So, it’s a good blend.”

Wittman and the Wizards have proven to be a good blend, but is Wittman a good coach? And more importantly, should the Wizards retain him this offseason when his contract expires?

By not only taking taking Washington to the playoffs – the franchise’s primary goal – but beating the Bulls in the first round, Wittman has probably ensured he’ll get a new deal. But whether or not he should is a different question.

Nobody has coached as many games and has as bad a record as Wittman, who holds a career record of 191-329 (.367) with Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington. Until this season, his BEST record was 32-50 with those 1999-00 Cavaliers.

On the other hand, maybe Wittman has turned a corner. He has spent most of this postseason – his first – as the coach with the all-time best playoff winning percentage. Even falling to 5-4 with three straight losses to the Pacers entering tonight’s Game 5, Wittman still ranks fourth third among active coaches in postseason winning percentage.*

*Behind only Erik Spoelstra, Gregg Popovich and Mike Brown

Wittman also led the Wizards to a 44-38 regular-season record – a 15-game improvement from last season.

Usually, that type of improvement warrants Coach of the Year consideration. But Wittman didn’t get a single vote.

Nobody has coached a team with such a big turnaround that finished with a winning record and not received a Coach of the Year vote in at least the last 14 years. It’s probably been longer, but I can’t find full voting further back. This is essentially unprecedented recently.

If nobody else has noticed Wittman’s coaching improvement, his players have.

“He’s a lot more assertive,” Miller said. “He knows what he wants to get done. I think he knew those things when we was in Cleveland, but it’s just a different atmosphere.

Wittman probably deserves credit for that different atmosphere. His best skill might be the consistency of his approach. Even last season, when the Wizards started 4-28 and seemed on the verge of total collapse, they still went 25-25 the rest of the way.

“His vibe is positive,” Miller said. “He has a good mixture of coaching and player relationships. He’s definitely prepared. You can see him studying film all the time and just assertive in what he wants to get done.”

It’s rare a coach has support of all his players, and even those who do don’t have total total support from each player. But Wittman at least has the support of John Wall, Washington’s unquestioned leader.

Wall spent a year and a half playing for Flip Saunders, who was assisted by Wittman before he took over midway through the 2011-12 season.

“All of us as a team respects everything he does,” Wall said of Wittman.

By preaching defense and pace, Wittman has guided the Wizards further than they’ve been in the last nine years. How much of that is Wall’s growth, and how much of that is Wittman? Maybe the answer is inseparable.

“Now, we basically run the same plays we had since my rookie year, but we’re focused as a defensive team,” Wall said. “I think he’s trusting me more with the ball and trusting the team in running it.”

Wittman is slow to take credit, though.

Asked whether this season has been personally satisfying, Wittman talked about all the tough times his players have faced. Pressed further about his satisfaction in light of his tough times, Wittman perhaps revealed why he’s achieving better results than ever.

“Sure,” Wittman said. “We’re all in one, one in all. So, we feel the same things.”

  1. tomtravis76 - May 13, 2014 at 9:01 PM

    Most fans around the DMV think he has been a nice guy, nothing has stood out about Randy, and he is not the guy people think can lead them over the hurdle to be year in and year out a contender.

  2. scottheis82 - May 13, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    People are always quick to criticize a poorly written story. I just want to give you credit, this was well written.

    • therealhtj - May 13, 2014 at 9:46 PM

      Sure, ‘cept for the part about Mike Brown being an active coach.

    • shanelsweet - May 14, 2014 at 7:23 AM

      Glad you liked it. I was left to wonder what is a “Tamper tantrum.” Some sort of rules violation?

  3. metalhead65 - May 13, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    look at the places he has coached and the rosters he was given. name another coach who would have a winning record with the same teams. this team was lousy when he took over but with a infusion of good young talent they turned it around this season so why would you want to get rid of him?

  4. 32magicman - May 14, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    Yep. Mike Brown is not currently coaching…… But rumour has it the Cleveland Cavaliers are considering him as their new head coach!

  5. elcaminobilly - May 14, 2014 at 12:18 AM

    He should definitly get a new contract. For the first time in his coaching career, he actually has superstars (Wall and Beal, with Gortat on the verge) and good, solid players like Ariza, Nene etc. If they can stay healthy, they can make a playoff run. In fact, they are doing that right now. I would not be surprised if they advance to the East finals this year.

  6. sportsfan18 - May 14, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Uh, read those teams he’s coached and it stands to reason that he’d have the worst coaching record…

    “Nobody has coached as many games and has as bad a record as Wittman, who holds a career record of 191-329 (.367) with Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington.”

    Let’s see if it was ONLY Wittman. Here are how the coaches after Wittman did with the teams he coached.


    Under Wittman .378% winning percentage.

    So, did Cleveland IMPROVE when they got rid of Wittman?

    Next coaches in order…

    John Lucas .298% winning percentage

    Keith Smart .225% winning percentage


    Under Wittman .266% winning percentage

    Kevin McHale .317% winning percentage

    Kurt Rambis .195% winning percentage

    So Wittman was in the middle of those guys. Not a great franchise after KG left.


    Since Wittman is their coach, gotta look at the two before him.

    Under Wittman .427% winning percentage

    Wizards coach just before Wittman .282% winning percentage.

    2 coaches before Wittman .254% winning percentage

  7. duhwighthoward - May 14, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Anyone is an improvement over Flip Saunders.

  8. ebecks34 - May 14, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    That’s because this is his first playoff ever. After winning game 1 in Chicago, he was the all-time playoff winningest coach ever, sitting at 100%.

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