CBSSports.com reports this morning on a rumor that Washington Wizards’ coach, Randy Wittman will be fired at the end of the season. Since this is a local team for me, I get to see them play more times than I do any other team. Here is my assessment of this rumor:
The Wizards made it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs last year and some pundits thought that the Wizards would be the team in the East that would challenge the Cavaliers for supremacy there. That was pie-in-the-sky and not analytical thinking.
The Wizards will not make the playoffs at all this year. Other teams have had worse seasons but the Wizards may be the most disappointing team in the NBA.
The problem is the roster and not the coach. Unless of course you believe that the team’s failure to play defense for the entire season is the coach’s fault. The basis for the disappointment this season is bad defense – and bad defense means the roster is not capable of playing good defense or refuses to work on defense. The coach is only marginally responsible there.
Another problem with the roster has to do with things other than physical skill;
John Wall continues to declare that he is one of the elite point guards in the NBA – top 5 if he is doing the evaluation. He is not.
Bradley Beal is a good shooting guard who gets hurt twice a season and misses a dozen games at a time.
Their two centers could easily be named Slow and Slower.
I do not want anyone to think that I put Randy Wittman in the same category with the great coaches in the NBA today and in the past. He is better than average and not much more. However, I do not care who the team might get to replace him, the “new coach” is not going to win the NBA East with that roster.
Speaking of coaching rumors, another one floating out there is that the Phoenix Suns will try to hire Jay Wright away from Villanova once the NBA season is over. I am not Jay Wright’s accountant nor do I know Jay Wright’s accountant so the best thing I can do here is to take a wild guess at what he earns at Villanova. Given that basketball is the “big dog” in the Villanova athletic department and that Wright has been there a while, I will GUESS that he makes about $2.5M as the coach and then adds some pocket change on top of that for things like motivational speaking and/or a local radio program and/or stuff like that. The added stuff probably does not amount to much so let me GUESS that his total income is $2.6M.
NBA coaches make between $2M a year and $10M a year. Coaches for bad teams (Sixers) and first time head coaches are obviously at the bottom of the ladder. Experienced coaches seem to start at the $3M per year level. Billy Donovan left Florida last year to take over the Oklahoma City Thunder and reports say that he makes $6M per year; Brad Stevens jumped from Butler to the Boston Celtics several years ago and reports say that he now makes $3.6M per year.
Looking purely at the numbers, Jay Wright could take down a nice pay raise going to the NBA off his NCAA Tournament championship about a week ago. But I wonder if “the numbers” are the critical factor in this decision. After all, if my GUESS above is off by 20% to the high side, Jay Wright and his family are in no danger of dining at soup kitchens anytime in the near future. Consider:
Jay Wright has “Philadelphia roots”. His family lived in suburban Philly and he graduated from high school there.
He was an assistant coach at Villanova and at Drexel from 1986 through 1992.
He has been the head coach at Villanova since 2001.
I am sure that an NBA team could make him a financial offer that he could not refuse. After all, reports say that Doc Rivers makes $10M per year in LA to coach the Clippers and that Greg Popovich makes $11M per year to coach the Spurs. However, the Suns were reportedly paying Jeff Hornacek $2M per year prior to firing him back in January setting in motion the rumor that they might go after Jay Wright. [Aside: Recall that Hornacek was the runner-up Coach of the Year in the NBA the year before he was fired and the suns were paying him $2M per year.] That datum does not suggest that Wright will be swept off his feet financially by the Suns.
Moreover, Jay Wright can pretty much run his basketball program at Villanova however he wants to run it. In addition to the NCAA Championship the team just won, Wright’s cumulative record at Villanova is a gaudy 354-157 – a winning percentage of .693. With the Suns, he will need to run the basketball program in concert with a GM (Ryan McDonough) and a majority owner (Robert Sarver). I do not know a whole lot about Ryan McDonough but I do know that Robert Sarver has a history of meddling with the franchise and has gone off the rails with his comments in the past. Google Sarver’s name with “millennials” and see what I mean.
If I were advising Jay Wright – and you may be certain that he will not seek my advice or read this rant and take it to heart – I would tell him to listen to any NBA offer that any team might want to put in front of him. However, if the offer comes from a troubled franchise (Kings, Sixers, Suns, Wolves, Nets, etc.), be sure the annual salary is at least double what you are making now and that the contract is guaranteed in total for at least 5 years. Even then, I would suggest it would come down to a family decision involving the preferences of wife and kids. [Aside again: Jay Wright’s wife is a Villanova grad.]
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another member of the coaching fraternity:
“Jim Harbaugh made an appearance at the Sweet 16. At the current rate of appearances and sightings, I fully expect Harbaugh to show up in photos sent back by the Mars rover.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………