Expectations According to Randy Wittman: 30-Win Chase? 9th Seed Race? What’s My Motivation?
Sometimes it’s hard searching for reality in a franchise known for being so bad for so long. You certainly can’t turn to team marketing messages—they might only remind you of this famous butchered quote from President George Bush in 2002:
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”
Just as difficult is attempting to separate fluff from the owner’s blog, Ted’s Take, from a coach simply wanting to do his job. Randy Wittman wants to coach to win; players (most often) want to play to win. Positive pixel messaging and the coach’s intentions can go hand-and-hand, but they don’t always work in unison to clear the clouds from the scene.
So the Wizards are aiming for 30 wins. So they want to be the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Do such middling aspirations—the adjustment of expectations—merely reset substandard goals for a traditionally substandard franchise? Or do the so-called aspirations actually increase expectations for next season?
‘Oh, you’re 24-21 with John Wall, which would qualify the Wizards for the fifth best record in the East in unattainable contingencies? Well, prove it.’ [Note: the Wizards are now 24-22 with Wall after falling to the Heat.]
Don’t just make the playoffs next season. Nope, that’s no longer the goal, one would think. The new aim should be to compete for home court advantage in 2014. We’ll have to wait and see if that makes Ted’s Take.
Otherwise, what does Randy Wittman think of all of this—30 wins, first team out of a playoff spot, and expectations for next season? Does it lower the bar? Or does it elevate the goals?
The question was posed to the coach prior to facing Miami on Wednesday night:
How does it lower the bar? We were 4-28, that’s when we started aiming for it. We didn’t aim for it at the start of the year. What do you want to aim for, 80 wins when you’re 4-28?
But what bearing does such have on next season?
How we’re playing bears to what we’re doing next season, I think. It has nothing to do with the number of wins. It’s how we’re playing with the group of guys that we have that we’re moving forward with and that we’re trying to build around. I don’t think it has anything to do with the number of wins.
My job as a coach is to motivate the team for 82 games, and that’s what I try to do … give them those goals. When you’re in a situation where you’re not going to be in the playoffs, you give them the goal of getting to the ninth spot, or getting to the tenth spot. So they continue to watch the standings to see where you’re at; and watch you climb and watch you pass all these teams that, when we were at the very bottom—we were at the very bottom at 4-28, there was 29 teams ahead of us—let’s see how many we can pass.
That’s what you try to do as a coach when you’re motivating you’re players. I don’t think that’s lowering the bar, to sit there and say, ‘We’ll, you’re only at 30, what’s that going to mean for next year?’ That’s just me personally.
Fair enough. As suspected, the currently adjusted expectations are for motivating players. And well, if a late-season surge ultimately becomes a sales pitch to sell more tickets–or just positive pixels combating negativity–it’s merely a partially intended consequence. But for conditioned malcontents (such as myself, on some days), it’s just the same old sparkly lure that’s dipped in waters fans have been swimming in for years. Maybe one day they’ll actually get fed.
The caveat is that it starts with the players. Unfortunately, history hasn’t been on the side of the Wizards having the right players. Proving otherwise is still easier said than done, even with the jettisoning of cultivated idiocy (do I really have to name-drop the departed?). And it can only be done over an actual, full season. Not with the accumulation of meaningless, feel-good springs.
Still, there’s hidden credit to dish out, if you consider this a season in isolation; it’s not. There’s no denying that the Wizards, on most nights, did not go down without a fight in starting 4-28 (5-28 without Wall). That tends to get overshadowed by the fact that there are cracks in the rebuilding structure–aside from Wall and Beal, where are the promising young players?
But this is where the construct clashes with a coach’s motivation. And that’s why we’ll end this with the words of Wittman from Wednesday’s pre-game:
I’m proud of these guys. We’ve endured a lot ourselves here. With the injuries to start with a lot of our main guys, and going 4-28 to open up the year, and fighting the way we did, tooth and nail, coming up short each night … it paid off for us down the stretch once we got healthy. Our guys were more confident playing at the end of games. They never lost their determination. I think if you were to ask me at 4-28 if we would be at 30 sitting here today, I’d probably think you’re crazy, even though you are.
I think it’s important for us to try to finish that way, because you don’t have any control over injuries. But, we have shown what we can do when healthy, and I think the majority of our players that we’ve pretty much started this year … I think that we’ve got 21 games together out of 82 (because Bradley’s [Beal] out for the rest of the year)–not a very large sampling of what it could have been. But that’s encouraging, to me, seeing what this team can do and the way they fought and the heart that they got.