- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Wizards’ new coach did not look happy Wednesday morning. And for a good reason.

“My message to the team is, ‘We’re 2-15. We can’t do anything about that. What are we going to do from here on out?’” Randy Wittman said hours before facing the Charlotte Bobcats in his first game as interim coach.

Wittman replaced Flip Saunders, who was fired on Tuesday, and has been named the coach for the remainder of the season.

“It’s tough. I don’t like being here today. I’m not real happy about this,” Wittman said. “But I am here today because I believe these guys are better than what they are. I’ve got to get them to believe that. And if we can reach that point, we’re going to show that we’re better than what we are.

“We’re in this together. I’m in this with them. I’m going to help them, as much as I can, reach that potential. Not only as an individual, but a team. We’ve got to work our way out of this. I don’t have any miracles given to me to change it without any hard work and change of attitude and everything we do on the floor.”

John Wall said he spoke with Saunders after Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld told the team about the coaching change.

“I talked to him [Tuesday]. He just said keep working hard and I told him that I was sorry that happened to him,” Wall said. “It was tough to see him go. I just wish we would’ve played harder, did the right things, and it would be easier for him to stay here, but you gotta make the right decisions to move on.

“Me and Flip had no problems. He just wanted me to play basketball, but there was just times when I would get frustrated with myself for not playing good, doing things like that, and he was just somebody that would always send me a text message or talk to me every day and just say keep on working and keep believing in yourself and things will get better.”

Wall also received some much-needed encouragement from someone who knows exactly what he’s going through.

“I talked to Kevin Durant,” Wall said. “He told me as somebody that dealt with the same thing in Oklahoma City, he just worked hard every day, kept coming in and being a leader, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The Wizards have 49 games left this season, and a brutal schedule coming up, with either a back-to-back, or just one day off between games until Feb. 17, when they’ll be in the middle of a five-game West Coast road trip.

With the limited practice time this condensed 66-game schedule demands, Wittman’s message will need to sink in pretty quickly.

“His biggest message is that the plate is wiped clean,” Roger Mason Jr. said of Wittman’s first speech to the team as head coach. “He said that what’s happened in the past is the past. He’s going to hold all the guys accountable. He’s going to demand a lot of us as a coach because he believes in us. I think he let the guys know he’s got our back no matter what, and that we all have to have each other’s back. It was good to hear.

“We all know that Flip’s a good coach, because he’s done it in the past, but for this team in this particular moment, management has decided to go in a different direction and I think we’re excited about that.”

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