Sources: Wizards fire coach Randy Wittman after team misses playoffs

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Washington Wizards have dismissed head coach Randy Wittman after missing out on the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, sources told ESPN's Marc Stein.

Wittman was informed of his dismissal Wednesday night after the team's season ended with a 109-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, according to The Associated Press. Wittman went 178-199 in 4 seasons with the Wizards, a .472 winning percentage.

NBA coaching sources tell's Marc Stein that formerOklahoma City Thunder coach Scotty Brooks is widely regarded as the Wizards' preferred choice to replace Wittman, at least partly to assist with Washington's long-held plan to chase D.C. native Kevin Durant in free agency.

After the season finale Wednesday, Wittman was asked about his job status and offered a defense of the job he did in Washington.

"I love this job," he said. "I'm going to come to work until they tell me I can't. I'm proud of what we've done here. I took over 4 years ago, and this was a sideshow. And we slowly changed the culture of this team. And we had a slip-up this year.''

He continued: "I'm proud of the work that I've done here. I really am. I'm proud of our guys. They played hard all the way to the end, playing for nothing. They gave me that. I'll be here first thing in the morning. So if you want to come by, I'll be here.''

About an hour later, Wittman could be heard near his office, offering a goodbye to a team employee.

Next season was to be the final year of Wittman's three-year contract, which paid him more than $3 million per season but was not fully guaranteed.

Wittman took the team to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons since taking over for the late Flip Saunders in January 2012, but the team's 41-41 finish this season was far below what prognisticators expected for the team this season.

Last season, the Wizards went 46-36 and were seeded fifth in the East for the playoffs. They knocked off the Toronto Raptors in the first round, then bowed out in six games against Atlanta after Wall broke bones in his left hand and wrist in Game 1.

After having success using Paul Pierce as a stretch-4 during those playoffs, the Wizards tried to install a full-fledged pace-and-space system this season, although they did it without Pierce, who left for the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent.

The strategy never fully worked. Washington's defensive play, the foundation of the success Wittman did have with the team, took a major step back this season, and injuries up and down the roster didn't help matters.

In a wide-ranging news conference before Wednesday's game, which he sat out because of a swollen knee, Wizards star John Wall acknowledged that he and Wittman had a shouting match at practice late in the season, but added that the pair has "a great relationship."

"He's been here [as an assistant or head coach] every year I've been in the NBA,'' Wall said. "He's helped me become a better player, improving me as a person. And just how he has been coaching us, we became a better defensive team. We made the playoffs because of him. He's doing the best he can with the group of guys he has out there.''

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.