Even when the odds appeared stacked against Randy Wittman returning as coach in the final year of his contract, he didn't flinch. His players did so quite a few times during the season, but they pulled it together, won 44 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld answered quickly when asked if it was an easy decision for him to bring back Wittman: "Yes, it was."
He continued: "Randy has established a great culture. A hard-working culture. Defensive-oriented team. We've been a top 10 defensive team over the last two years. We made good progress. We still have a lot of work ahead of us but we're headed in the right direction. ... The whole process started way before the playoffs.
""He's very demanding. He's a hard worker. He's a stickler for the little things and the players really bought into that. They saw that he had passion and that he really cared. He wanted to win and I think his fire did rub off on the rest of the team."
Wittman, who took over after Flip Saunders was fired in January 2012, spoke for about 12 minutes on Wednesday at Verizon Center, the day after his three-year, $9 million deal was made official. It was Wittman's most successful season as a head coach and the first time he'd led a team to the postseason.
"I'm grateful again to Ernie and Ted (Leonsis) for giving me this opportunity to continue on as I stated at the end of the year," Wittman said. "Over the last couple years what we've begun to establish here, the continuity is important. You could tell from the year before being the first full year and coming into this year the understanding, the guys knowing the system and what we're trying to accomplish both from an offensive and defensive standpoint made a big step."
The Wizards began the season 2-7 and struggled to sustain a record better than .500. But they got there, finished the regular season strong and climbed to the No. 5 seed in the East. They eliminated the heavily favored Chicago Bulls 4-1 in a first-round series before falling in six games to the Indiana Pacers, the East's No. 1 overall seed.
"I don't really let that thought process happen," Wittman said about being concerned about job security. "I just continued to do my job. That's what I've done since I've taken over. When its time to move on it's time to move on. You just keep working."