A Night With Flip Saunders: Part 1
Like user ooba on Bullets Forever, I attended the Flip Saunders meet-n-greet with season ticket holders at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night. I didn’t intend on going (nor did I really know about it), but my boy Donte invited me that day, so big thanks to him.
Luckily, I had the room bugged beforehand so I could get some prime quotes from Flip … well, if ‘bugged’ means a small recorder I happened to have with me.
It’s kinda funny, I didn’t mean to be the sneaky blogger recording people’s conversations, or a coach talking to a practice court filled with 200-250 people (not sure if I’m a good crowd estimator or not), but like ooba, I just want to relay interesting team news, notes, and Et ceteras to those who weren’t able to attend.
Of course, one must wonder if Saunders was more candid speaking in front of fans, working under the assumption that no one was ‘covering’ the event, than he would have been with members of the main-stream-media.
Then again, unlike MSM types, I’m actually a fan of the team.
- Flip was great … he makes me comfortable with him at the helm … for the time being.
- Three Wizards girls were in attendance (nice touch), along with throngs of Wizards media/marketing/PR types.
- Cameo appearances I’m glad didn’t happen: A DJ Styles reunion tour and the fuzzy haired big fella in the ‘fan squad’ rolling around, banging that drum.
- Flip Opening Quotable: “Last season, for the first time, I was an expert … and didn’t lose any games.”
Flip’s Four Factors for Coming to D.C.:
- Ownership group led by Abe Pollin and his wife, and their commitment to the team and the community
- Management staff led by Grunfeld
Quotable: “[Grunfeld] has always been a very proactive individual, where he’s not afraid to make a change, or make a move, as far as if it’s a trade, or trade a draft pick to get a player. He’s got one goal that I have, that everybody has, and that’s to win a championship.”
- Players: Three All-Stars
- City and Fans
Flip’s Parable/Joke (summarized):
A miracle worker decided to get the lay of the land. On the road, he met a man with the inability to walk, and healed him. He walked further and healed a blind man. Finally, he met a man who was crying hysterically. The miracle worker asked what’s wrong and the man said he was a fan of the Washington Wizards. The miracle worker then sat right down and cried right with him.
In mentioning point guards he’s coached, one being Stephon Marbury, Flip said that Steph, “still can” in terms of pushing the ball up the court, aka the guy might have something left in the tank. Just saying.
In a trap drill: “We had two of those guys try to trap Jennings, he dribbled the ball through their legs four different times.”
Digs at ‘Sheed:
Regarding injured players not sitting on the bench and the NBA dress code:
“Rasheed never wanted to wear a sport coat to the game …’Sheed never wanted to do anything we asked him (laughs) …. anyways, a lot of times, he’d come to games and I’d make him put on his warm-ups and go watch the game in them.” -Flip S.
The Wizards put draft hopefuls through the same workout they put their players though … so, with Jonny Flynn’s recent comments, at least we know guys like Nick Young are working very hard (as previously relayed by Wizards Insider).
On Kevin Garnett:
“Everyone said it was a four player draft.” (1995 Draft: Joe Smith, McDyess, Stackhouse, and ‘Sheed)
[Flip and Kevin McHale] went to watch Garnett work out along with 20 other teams with the intent of boosting Garnett’s status by spreading the word that they were going to him. They hoped one of the other teams would thus change plans and take K.G., and then one of the top four would slip to Minnesota. After watching five minutes of the workout, Flip turned to McHale and said, “We better hope he’s there at five.”
On statistical analysis in basketball vs. what he physically sees and his gut feeling:
“It’s a combination.” Flip went on the tell of computer software technology which charts everything that happens on every play and spits back out percentages and tendencies for various scenarios in real time.
“When it comes down to it, in the last few minutes of the game ….. you gotta coach with your gut. Statistics, what you see, and what can really happen doesn’t always hold true. But you use those things to help you.” -Flip S.
On the offensive post-game:
Flip said, “You create your own matchups,” then he went on to reference playing Caron at two or Antawn at three, having them post up against smaller players, essentially creating mis-matches for the opponent. Personally, I’ve always been an advocate of posting Caron.
“There’s not many low-post threats in the NBA right now. Our game has become very much of a draw and kick, and a three point shooting game.” -Flip S.
On game four of the NBA Finals:
“He shoulda fouled him.” (Emphatically, and repeatedly was the message … look for Flip to always foul when up three and the other team has the ball with the clock winding down.)
“Gilbert and I got into an argument. Gilbert said, ‘well I wouldn’t foul’ .. I said, ‘well that’s why you’re not coaching.’” -Flip S.
On Defense: (and scouting report for when his past teams played the Wizards)
“When we played [the Wizards], we always knew we were going to get a run on them because they had the tendency to take a lot of three points shots early in the shot clock.” -Flip S.
Flip went on to relate how long shots create long rebounds and easy offense for the other team, and that the worst defense is in transition.
As far as defensive schemes, he seems to like playing a four corner box zone. Flip highlighted contesting shots, and not allowing second chance points.
- Flip stared with, “Wanna hear about Gilbert Arenas?” and the crowd responded with an enthusiastic, “Yeah!” — Goes to show that Gil is still a zero to hero for a majority of fans.
- Lil’ Kid: “Who you looking to take in the draft?” (room laughs) Flip: “I tell ya what, we might take you.” (room laughs) … but Flip went on to answer the question in depth. Quotable: “We have about seven players that we’re looking at.”
- When Flip said he was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, the crowd booed. Flip then related that, as the high school player of the year in Ohio, when he played in the state H.S. all star game, he got booed because he chose to go to Minnesota.
- Old man in the crowd said that he was the man crying in the parable and that Flip Saunders will be the ‘miracle worker’ (crowd applauds).
- This woman in the front row, who’d been raising her hand off and on almost since the onset, somewhat unsure as if she wanted to ask a question or not, finally got her turn.
When called upon, before she started speaking, Flip said, “You raised your hand enough, now you have a chance” (smiling — he must have seen the angst on her face).
She then went on a diatribe about Gilbert and pranks, him not sitting on the bench, and wanting to see more maturity on the court and off the court from the whole team. She was mad that Gilbert started talking about losing to get the #1 pick in November.
Flip’s response: “I don’t really know what’s happened in the past, I really don’t care … to be honest.”He said he will be giving Arenas (and other players) a clean slate and asks that the fans do the same.
I don’t blame the woman for her intensity on the subject. She does represent a significant thought area amongst a large grouping of fans. I’ve railed on Gil myself, but don’t necessarily make as big of a deal about his ‘antics’ and have hope/trust that he will be able to grow up next season.
Perhaps it was therapeutic for the woman to get the question and her opinion out there. But really, there’s not much Flip can do but move forward. He answered the question well.
Remember, Flip says that the ‘Ball Don’t Lie’