Flip Saunders Wizards interview, plus Ernie Grunfeld quotes

The Washington Wizards recently named Flip Saunders their new head coach. Here’s what Saunders said to the media about the team and his new job:

Saunders on if he studied the Wizards throughout the season: “I studied them a lot, but it’s tough to judge this team without a premier player like Gilbert (Arenas).  Then of course Brendan (Haywood) was hurt and he’s an anchor on defense, and (DeShawn) Stevenson was hurt.  You had so many injuries so it’s tough to really judge the team, but what you can do is evaluate the talent of the young players.”

Saunders on the young players: “I think the young players have a lot of potential.  I have a saying that potential is what you’re capable of doing, motivation determines what you do, and your character and attitude determines how well you do it.  With our young players it’s important for the coaching staff and the veteran players to help those players understand what time of character and attitude they need to be professional and be successful in this league.”

Saunders on Gilbert Arenas: “The thing I love about him more than anything else is his competitiveness.  I look forward to the opportunity to work with him.  I’m sure that I’m going to learn from Gilbert and he’s going to learn from me.  I know Gilbert wants to win more than anything.  In the texts and conversations that we had, that’s the main thing that we’ve talked about.  I think that he’s ready to take the step in order to do that and have people follow him.”

Saunders on what it takes to get a team to the conference finals: “I think the biggest thing is that when I say ‘team’ the word ‘sacrifice’ goes along with it.  You have to be willing as individuals to sacrifice any individual role you have for the team to have success.  I believe in teams with high assists and low turnovers.  I believe in what I call the hockey assist; sometimes it’s the assist that leads to the assist that’s the most important play.  Those are the things that as a coach you keep on driving into your team.  As you work with them and see the success of it, it keeps on growing.”

Saunders on defense: “From a technical standpoint, you have to be able to defend.  A lot is talked about the huge playbook that I have.  It’s about 60 percent defense and 40 percent offense.  People don’t talk much about what I do defensively, because offense is more creative at times, but when the players walk into that gym defense is going to be a priority.  If you talk to the coaches that have coached against teams that I’ve had, no one has ever said that our teams didn’t defend.”


Grunfeld on hiring Flip Saunders to be the 22nd head coach in franchise history: “This is a very exciting day for us.  This is a new beginning.  Flip was our top priority in this coaching search.  What we were looking for was someone with credibility, an NBA background, and experience in the regular season and in the playoffs.  Flip coached in the conference finals four out of the last five years that he coached in the NBA.  That’s what we want to get to and even higher than that.  He’s a well respected person and I think he’s a great fit for our team right now with the type of players we have.  He’s an X’s and O’s man.  He pays attention to detail and I think he’s extremely underrated on the defensive end.  We all know that we want to improve in that area.  He plays a fun brand of basketball.  He likes to get up and down the floor, which I think the players enjoy and the fans enjoy watching.  We’re looking to get back to where we feel we belong, and that’s the playoffs.  Once we get to the playoffs, we want to make some noise.  I think this is the man to lead us there.”

Grunfeld on hiring a new head coach: “This was a very wanted job.  A lot of people called who were interested.  Doing our due diligence we were able to make contact sometime around the All-Star break (in February).  There were a lot of people who called that had a lot of interest, but when we went through everything and did our due diligence, I felt like he was the top candidate.”

More on Saunders: “He brings the whole package to the table.  He brings credibility and a lot of knowledge, and with knowledge you get respect.  My biggest concern is to win basketball games.  You hire a coach and you let him coach.  Everybody has a little bit of a different system and everybody does things their own way, but the bottom line is to win games. He’s a veteran guy and I like the fact that he came up the hard way.  He coached in college and he coached in the CBA.  He was Coach of the Year in the CBA, and it takes a lot to coach in the CBA.  He paid his dues and when he came to the NBA he had a lot of success.  He’s had seven 50-win seasons.  We were looking for someone who is a winner both in the regular season and in the playoffs, someone who understands X’s and O’s, and someone who has coached elite players before.”

Grunfeld on the focus during the offseason: “The next order of business is the draft.  We have the lottery on May 19th and then we find out exactly where we pick, and then of course in June we have the draft.  As Flip mentioned, we have six players on this team that are 23 years old or younger, so player development is crucial for us in the offseason.  It’s a difficult offseason and I think Flip is very much in favor of helping the players.  We have some very solid veteran players but we also have players that need that development, so we’re going to be focusing on that.  The thing you can control is player development, so we’re going to be focusing on that. After the draft, we’ll have summer league and we’ll continue to work and grow.  If the right opportunity comes along that we think will help us improve, then that’s something we’ll look at.”

Author: Inside Hoops

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