I’ve got Flip Saunders and Wizards coming out my nose and ears after just cranking out two stories and two sidebars for tomorrow’s paper, but here — believe it or not — are some nuggets that didn’t make it into any of the afformentioned piecesof work… .
Flip pointed one thing out that often is overlooked in his three Eastern Conference failures in Detroit: A severe ankle injury to Rasheed Wallace strapped the team in the 2006 conference finals and that last year it was Chauncey Billups, who was injured, something Saunders said seriously weakened his team. He said his reputation for being a nice guy is overblown, but that he’s fine with that because “But if nice guys can win 59 games a year, it’s OK.”
On reported problems with dealing with strong personalities and how he doesn’t expect any problems with Gilbert:
“Gilbert, and I already told him this, what I love about him more than anything else is his competitiveness. Things he does in games are because he’s so competitive. So I look forward to working with him. And I look back to my days in Minnesota and I had a great player like Garnett and the players I had in Detroit, I learn from those players. I learn the temperament of those players, what they have to make them better players and what I can do to help them become better players. I’ll learn from Gilbert and he’ll learn from me.
“But also, the bottom line is, and what it often comes down to, coaches have to make tough decisions, and a lot of times, none of the players are going to be happy with them but if they know you’re making those decisions for the best of the team, the goal is just win. …
I know Gilbert wants to win. And in the texts and conversations that we have, that’s the main thing we’ve talked about. What it is to be a leader, what it is to have commitment and the responsibility that comes along with those things.
“Some times you have to make hard decisions they might not like. Some times you make a hard decision with a veteran and it comes across as the player and the coach aren’t getting along. The player wants things and you want things, and sometimes what happens are you both want things but what has to happen is the coach has to come out on top. My main job is to make sure those guys know what I want and we want the same thing.”
Flip on his expectations for Gilbert Arenas to step up as a leader on his team:
“When you’re the best player on the team you don’t have a choice. That’s a responsibility you have. I dont know any team that’s had success that didn’t have leadership from their best player. And I think sitting out the last two years he’s been able to see that.”
On how to set the tone right off the bat, sending the message that he – not the players – call the shots:
“That’s a process that you go through. They’ll know that from when we talk. They’ll know my commitment. One thing I don’t do, I don’t hang my players out to dry, I don’t talk about them in the papers, I just love my players. It’s like my kids, they might do something bad, but I might get on them, but I’m still going to hug them and love them. … when you have that and the players know you believe in them and care about them, they’re going to know that the decisions I make are because they’re best for the team.”
Flip said that he hasn’t begun to fill out his coaching staff because he’s been so busy getting the deal with the Wizards finalized, but that he has received a high volume of calls from guys around the league wanting to join his staff. He is intent on hiring “a teaching staff, a staff that can teach and develop players whether they’re veteran players or young players.” On Sam Cassell, he said, “Yeah, I have to talk to Sam. Sam’s got to make a decision if he wants to coach, or if he still wants to play, but he’s been one of the guys that’s calling.”