Here's the latest:
Flip Saunders appears to be at the top of the Washington Wizards' coaching wish list, according to league sources.
While no deal has been struck, one source said the two sides have had preliminary discussions.
Approaching Saunders makes it clear that the Wizards do not plan to remove the interim tag on Ed Tapscott, their director of player development who coached the team for most of the season. Tapscott replaced the incumbent, Eddie Jordan, three weeks into this season after an injury-plagued 1-10 start.
That last part is pretty obvious; Tapscott was never going to coach more than the rest of this season, unless he did something crazy like win 20 in a row. But that never happened (obviously), and Tapscott was just trying to get through the season without the team embarrassing itself. Mission accomplished, I guess. Beating the Cavs twice wasn't bad either.
Anyway, the main consensus is that there are really two options for the Wizards to choose from for head coach: Flip Saunders and Avery Johnson. I also agree with Rook at Bullets Forever that Saunders is the better fit between the two -- basically for this reason:
Saunders will be the perfect match for this team of veterans who know how to play the game the correct way. The Wizards are very good on offense, rebound the ball, have a deep and talented bench, play unselfishly and know how to win. Saunders has been around a long time and understands that sometimes less is more. He did not come into Detroit trying to change things drastically, and I expect he'll do the same in Washington. My guess is that he'll install his match-up zone defensive philosophy, and just tweak the Offense - and let em run.
Also, according to a poll at Bullets Forever, 61 percent of 136 votes were in favor of hiring Saunders over Johnson or anyone else. That's a small sample size, but most, if not all of those votes, are from die-hard Wizards fans.
I like Avery Johnson, but I just think Saunders is the better fit. Johnson would come in and try to change everything, and except for a few changes that could be made in the offseason, the Wizards are committed to the same core players. The Wizards don't need to drastically re-work the roster; they need to build around the strengths of the big three (Arenas, Butler, and Jamison). Pradamaster does a solid job of explaining this very point in his latest post:
With Arenas, Jamison and Butler as your centerpieces, clearly you're going to be a better offensive team than a defensive team. The defensive ability of all three of those guys can be questioned. Arenas has his knee problems and a general lack of desire/attention to defense. Butler is undersized, gambles a lot and loses concentration on the weakside, while Jamison is both undersized and a bit lazy on defense, having developed bad habits from his entire career. Obviously, to make it to the next level, the defense is going to have to improve significantly, but that can't happen at the expense of the strengths of the trio.
This concept really applies most to our coach selection, which we've talked about a ton, but it boils down to this: the coach needs to play to the strengths of the Big 3. If we wanted a coach that would radically transform the team, we should have been more aggressive in turning over our roster beforehand. Don't forget, when Dallas switched coaches to Avery Johnson, they did so only after dumping Steve Nash, trading Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker and spending tons of money on Erick Dampier. Once Avery was hired, they also dumped Michael Finley. We haven't had a similar roster transformation and it doesn't look like we will, so why hire a coach to run a different style? That's what Phoenix did, and it didn't work.
Bingo. And I also think Ernie Grunfeld knows this, which is probably why Saunders is at the top of his list.
(Also, if you couldn't tell by now, I really like Bullets Forever. Seriously, go there now.)
Update: Ernie Grunfeld moves quickly. According to Washington Times writer Mike Jones, Saunders to the Wizards is "a done deal":
"He's definitely [Washington's] top choice," another Eastern Conference executive said. "He's the top candidate out there, so in this shrinking job market, I imagine that he and his agent will want to sit back and see what offers they get."
Michael Lee of The Washington Post confirms the choice, adding that former NBA guard Sam Cassell will be one of Saunders's assistant coaches.