WASHINGTON — An 18-31 record usually isn’t enough to for an NBA coach keep a job. For Randy Wittman, six of those wins came at the right time.
The Washington Wizards announced Monday that Wittman will return as their coach next season, retaining the position he accepted after Flip Saunders was fired in January.
Wittman, who had been Saunders’ lead assistant since 2009, didn’t make much of an impact on the won-loss record until late in the season. The Wizards finished 20-46 — second-worst in the NBA — but they finished on an upswing, winning their last six and eight of their last 10.
Wittman also appeared to connect better with Washington’s young roster than did Saunders, who was originally hired to lead a veteran-laded team when he came to Washington three years ago. Former No. 1 overall pick John Wall was among the players who publicly said they wanted Wittman to return.
The announcement, therefore, came as no surprise. There had been no recent indications the Wizards were shopping for a new coach, and Wittman was already under contract for another season.
“We were very pleased with the development of our young players and the commitment to winning he instilled despite taking over the team under difficult circumstances,” President Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement released by the team.
The Wizards are essentially maintaining the status quo in their basketball hierarchy despite a fourth consecutive season with a record at least 25 games below .500. Grunfeld’s contract was due to expire this year, but he was given a new contract in April by owner Ted Leonsis.
Wittman previously coached the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves. He has a 118-238 career record.