The news broke today just before noon EST that Flip Saunders has been fired as coach of the Washington Wizards, whose 2-15 record is the NBA’s worst. That improbable victory last week over the Oklahoma City Thunder apparently bought Saunders only one extra week of job security.
The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
From Woj’s breaking news story: “The Wizards have talked to assistant Randy Wittman about taking over as the interim head coach, but no agreement has been reached. In his third season with the Wizards, Saunders was the victim of the Gilbert Arenas gun suspension, injuries and the ultimate breaking up of the Antawn Jamison-Caron Butler playoff core. He finished 51-111 as Wizards coach. In 15 years as a head coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Washington, Saunders is 638-526. The Wizards have been something of a sideshow this season, with the losing punctuated by the immaturity of a young team.
SheridanHoops columnist Chris Bernucca had some good insight into the knuckleheadedness going on in D.C. in this column from a couple weeks ago.
Since then, Saunders benched JaVale McGee after he threw himself an alley-oop pass off the backboard during a game in which the Wizards were losing by double digits.
And last night, the Wizards were down 19 at the end of the first quarter of what became a 20-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. It was Washington’s seventh loss by a margin of 14 or more.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the Wizards players got a heads-up after last night’s loss that a coaching change was coming: “Tempers flared during the first half of that game, as players were “upset about being subbed out” when the Wizards were down by as many as 30 points, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. “At that point,” the person said, “no one had the right to complain about anything.” Players were informed after the loss in Philadelphia that a coaching change was coming, a source said. But the writing had been on the wall since at least the eighth game of the season, Washington’s eighth consecutive loss to start the season. After the 93-72 loss to Minnesota, Andray Blatche stated that the players had begun to tune Saunders out. “Flip is definitely doing his job,” Blatche said that night. “I just don’t feel like guys are listening and following behind what he says and what he wants us to do.”
Saunders is the second NBA coach to lose his job in the first 30 days of the lockout-shortened 66-game season. Paul Westphal was canned by the Sacramento Kings last month and was replaced by Keith Smart.
Saunders was in the third year of a four-year, $18 million contract.