Since October 2007, the TwolvesBlog front page has hosted the hotly debated question of whether or not Randy Wittman is the right coach for the revamped Wolves. Well, maybe it’s not hotly debated, but the question has occupied the poll on the right-hand side for the past year. I know when I first joined the site, I easily answered, "No." I think "no" is the majority answer for a lot of the readers, forum participants, and columnists here.
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However, as I made it to all the games last year, I have to admit that Randy Wittman has changed my answer to, "Maybe, I’m willing to give him a chance, but I’m not sure how successful he’ll be."
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Randy Wittman’s coaching record is brutal. Two seasons as head coach in Cleveland produced a 32-50 season followed by a 30-52 season. Wittman also took over the Wolves in the 2006-2007 season going a dismal 12-30, prior to leading the team to a 22-60 season. One thing that some have wrong: Wittman did not deliver LeBron to the Cavs. As a matter of fact, the Cavs used their 8th pick and the 20th pick on the Twin Towers of DeSagnia Diop and Brandon Haywood (the best Twin Towers since our beloved Felton Spencer/Luc Longley duo) after Wittman’s ouster. Although his Cleveland team regressed two games in Wittman’s second season, he had lost his leading scorer from his first season, the fertile one Shawn Kemp, and the leftovers were not desirable (not to mention the Cavs traded their first round pick, Jamal Crawford, for Chris Mihm and cash).
But that was then, and this is now. Wittman’s team was on pace last season to compete for the all-time losing single-season record, but things changed. As a coach, Wittman said he was going to play the young players on his team, and that’s what he did. For everyone who was at Target Center and/or watched the team on TV, no one can say that his players gave up on him. Wittman had no center, a 6-8 power forward, a point guard that can’t make a jumper, and, on top of that, no one to reliably hit any shots outside of 14 feet. With all that in mind, Wittman’s team improved as the year progressed, and the the Wolves started winning a few more games. 22-60 is poor, but it’s not historically poor like it could have been. This season should be a barometer for this coach, and there are some things that are squarely on Wittman now, specifically:
1) The team has better talent across the board. At the very least, this team should put up points and lose because they’re outscored.
2) The development of Corey Brewer. Whether Wittman was responsible or not in the draft selection process, he has a job to address with Corey Brewer’s development. Part of this is on Turbo, but a lot of this is on the coach.
3) As I said earlier, I thought Wittman did a nice job with rotations for the last half of the season. This year, the braintrust has jettisoned some of the excess baggage and added some real players. Wittman is going to have to figure out how to properly rotate.
4) Speaking of rotations, Wittman needs to determine them earlier than the regular season, or at least have a rotation going into the season. Last season, I was extremely upset and wrote an post where I blasted Wittman for basically having tryouts during the regular season. I stand by that. I think the Wolves coughed up three or four games last season simply because the rotation was not established. This year, Wittman has the core of last year’s team intact, and his new contributors are acknowledged as being a savvy veteran scorer (Miller) and a high-IQ rookie (Love). I expect Wittman to have this team’s game plan, and his rotations, determined much earlier in the season, if not at the beginning of the season. The regular season should not be a tryout this time (nor should it ever be). That’s Witt’s job.
If Wittman does his job correctly, and if this current roster can keep up the competitive attitude that led to last year’s turnaround, than I think 30-35 wins and frustrating playoff contenders is very realistic.
So, I’ve been sold…or at least as sold as someone can be to commit to a solid "Maybe."