Would Flip Saunders Work in Washington?

Is Flip Saunders a good coach? Honestly, I have no idea. This is something we should probably get straight before the Wizards officially make him their next coach. He doesn't seem quite like one of those "coaching carousel" retreads who survive, and fit the bill, solely on the circular credibility of having been a head coach in the past. After all, under him the Pistons made the Eastern Conference Finals three years in a row, and he helped that team become more than a one-way threat. On the other hand, he presided over the disintegration of the Pistons' trademark defensive intensity -- the LeBron Game, anyone? -- and was unable to exert the leadership necessary to pull together a team that had begun to doubt itself (and him). ↵
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↵Saunders' earlier tenure in Minny is impossible to separate from Kevin McHale's stupidity as a GM, the Joe Smith scandal that cost the team draft picks, Kevin Garnett's gigantic contract, and KG supposed strengths and weaknesses as a player. Actually, that's like one big interdependent system, with the exception of McHale's epic screw-up in the Smith situation. Then again, Saunders coached a Timberwolves team that consistently made the playoffs but couldn't get of the first round. Is that too much to ask of a team that boasted arguably the league's best all-around player and some half-competent role players? That certainly works against the Saunders in the leadership column; their offense consisted of Garnett and some shooters, but worked well enough. When the Wolves were fortunate enough to acquire Cassell and Spreewell for one blissful year, they went all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they put up a valiant fight against the Lakers. ↵
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↵So the real question might be, will any of these positive qualities translate to the Wizards? The Wiz don't need anyone to teach them how to score, but he could certainly fine-tune their already formidable offensive capability. Unfortunately, the team that plays no defense isn't going to learn the craft from Flip, and this most unconventional of squads could either respond well to his light touch, or use it as license to get even crazier. Then again, it's not like Eddie Jordan was a taskmaster. In some ways, this is like hiring a better Michael Jordan, which isn't so bad. ↵
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↵Needless to say, on all these counts, the evolution of Gilbert Arenas could have a lot to do with how much actual improvement Flip can bring. Remember, the Wizards are a playoff team when healthy. I'm assuming the goal is to not just get back to that level, but find a way to get up there with the East's elite.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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