Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Washington Wizards have fired coach Flip Saunders because, as the old adage goes, "you can't fire the GM."
Um, crap. Actually, it's "you can't fire the players." You really can't fire the players, because then you'd have to hire new players to suit up for another loss the next night. You can fire the GM, and then go trade and/or release all of the terrible players the old GM picked up, but the Wizards apparently think some or all of this group is salvageable -- which would be hilarious if it was, uh, hilarious.
Washington owner Ted Leonsis, following in the misguided footsteps of Minnesota owner Glen Taylor and late Detroit Pistons owner William Davidson, has decided to follow the path of a failed GM rather than bucking tradition and understanding that no coach could do right with this mess. Former Minnesota boss Kevin McHale is a legend, but he was awful with the Wolves. Joe Dumars is still surviving off his playing career and fumes from a 2001-2004 (Darko Milicic excluded) run in Detroit. And Ernie Grunfeld has failed, miserably, in Washington. His twisted run cost Flip Saunders his job. Because, apparently, new coach Randy Wittman can improve upon 2-15.
My terrible Internet connection and broken Blackberry can improve upon 2-15. The record in this lost season isn't the point. The Wizards aren't bereft of talent -- more successful outfits in New Jersey, Cleveland and Charlotte are put to shame by Washington on paper -- but Flip couldn't make it happen. Whatever "make it happen" means. Moving up to 6-11? Seven wins out of 17? Have you seen these guys play? The head coaches in Cleveland, New Jersey and Charlotte would sleep easily at night knowing that they somehow led these Wizards to 1-16.
This is the dumbest basketball team I've ever seen. I've seen rebuilding outfits chock full of high school draftees (back when you could play players out of prep school) and international flameouts. I've seen teams playing out the string. I've seen the needle and the damage done. I've seen Stephen Jackson. This Washington team, and I'm not on some cable-addled hyperbolic turn here, is the dumbest basketball team I've ever seen. They really are leading the charge, and not for the purpose of some random column posted in late January.
It has nothing to do with Twitter missteps or showboat dunks. I promise. Had none of these Wizards earned a blog post about something gone wrong, something silly and over the top, I'd say the same thing. The Washington Wizards play Moron Ball. Take it from someone who has watched kids with more teeth than IQ points play not too far from the Monon Line before they shower and load into their 1993 Mustang following the game without wearing a seat belt.
Saunders wasn't the problem. Sure, player development (stop laughing) could have been better, but his outfits in Minnesota and Detroit played some of the more exacting and intelligent basketball we've seen in our lifetime.
Even before Saunders' zone principals were allowed to be put into place entering the 2001-02 season, his Timberwolves overcame a litany of depth and athleticism issues to utilize my least favorite shot (the long-ish 2-pointer) on their way toward win after win, winning me and the league over despite all those 20-footers. His 2005-06 Detroit Pistons seemed well on their way toward nearly 70 wins for a spell until the team decided to play Martyr Ball ("everyone's out to get us!") during the playoffs. He's made it work, before. He'll make it work again, assuming he's paired with a GM that doesn't think that JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Kevin Seraphin are going to make it work together in a rotation.
In Saunders' place steps in Randy Wittman, a coach who boasts a miserable lifetime record (100-207) that is actually a percentage point improvement upon Washington's current turn. I understand that Saunders had to go, but "Ernie Grunfeld" firing "Flip Saunders" because the "Washington Wizards" stunk before settling on "Randy Wittman" as interim coach is the ultimate turn of pathetic, NBA retread Mad Libs.
Saunders had to go, but he deserved better. And, as has been the case for the last three decades, we all deserve better than the Washington Wizards. What a miserable mess.