Wizards Hire Flip Saunders
Carla Peay | 4/30/2009, 9:19 a.m.
Flanked by general manager Ernie Grunfeld and owner Abe Pollin, Flip Saunders was introduced as the new head coach of the Washington Wizards on Thur. April 23 at Verizon Center. Saunders becomes the 22nd head coach in franchise history.
€There was no pressure,€ Saunders said. €Mr. Pollin just said €don€t let us down€€, Saunders quipped.
The Washington Wizards are coming off of a 19-63 season, marred by injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood. But Saunders sees the chance to coach the Wizards as a golden opportunity.
€This is a team with a great deal of excitement; both the team and the city. There is an energy in the city, and the fans are very loyal,€ said Saunders, who added that he is planning to dive into the city as well as the team. €Wizards games won€t just be games, they will be events,€ Saunders said.
Known as an offensive coach, Saunders was quick to point out the importance of defense, something the Wizards have shown a lack of commitment to. Saunders said his playbook consists of 60 percent defensive plays, and 40 percent offensive plays.
€You have to defend to win in this league. Defense will be a priority,€ Saunders said.
Saunders got a look at the Wizards up close during training camp last year, when he spent time working with the team, and expressed his belief in the importance of team chemistry.
€Any successful team is a melting pot that brings together all types of personalities. Players, as well as coaches, have to be willing to listen,€ Saunders said. Saunders has a career record of 587-396 during an NBA coaching career that spans 12-and-a-half seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Detroit Pistons. Saunders did not coach last season, and said that the time away made him €thirsty to win a championship.€
Wizards new head coach Flip Saunders becomes the 22nd head coach in franchise history. €I wanted to go somewhere where there is an opportunity to have success,€ Saunders said. Photo by CD Brown
€We were looking for experience. We felt that Flip was the whole package,€ Grunfeld said. €We feel that this is a new beginning for our organization. He has been a winner in the playoffs, he is a good fit for the type of team we have and the brand of basketball we play. He will bring us back to where we feel we belong,€ Grunfeld said.
Pollin, the NBA€s longest tenured owner having owned the Bullets/Wizards franchise for 45 years, expressed excitement at Saunders arrival.
€We have brought a winner here to D.C., Pollin said. €We are ready to win a championship.€