Randy Wittman: Straight shooter

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2007 - 10:12 PM

Hidden behind cabinet doors in Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman's office in Target Center is a fold-out grease board containing the names of an inflated 17-man roster that includes eight newcomers and so many unexplored possibilities. Earlier this week, before the Wolves gather today for media day and fly Saturday to Turkey for 10 days of practice and games overseas, Wittman discussed a franchise completely remade after July's Kevin Garnett trade and his ascension from last winter's interim head coach to this season's new head coach.

Hidden behind cabinet doors in Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman's office in Target Center is a fold-out grease board containing the names of an inflated 17-man roster that includes eight newcomers and so many unexplored possibilities. Earlier this week, before the Wolves gather today for media day and fly Saturday to Turkey for 10 days of practice and games overseas, Wittman discussed a franchise completely remade after July's Kevin Garnett trade and his ascension from last winter's interim head coach to this season's new head coach.

Q Eight new faces. Eight guys 25 years old or younger. Maybe two or fewer starters back from opening night last season. What's your aptitude for piecing together jigsaw puzzles?

A We're going to find out. Do we have eight new guys? Is that it? It seems like there's more. For me, it's going to be fun because I'm such a huge believer in teaching. When you have a veteran group, you don't always get the ability to teach as much. Now, obviously we have to have patience through this whole thing, myself included, because there's going to be some growing pains.

Q When the new players arrived in August, you said you lobbied for such a complete youth movement if the franchise traded Kevin Garnett. Knowing how young players can get a coach fired, why?

A Because that's the only way you're going to do it. If I were looking at this thing selfishly, I never would even have agreed to be part of the Garnett trade. Looking long term, I envision myself being here. The only thing you can do that makes sense when you trade a player like that is to stockpile a lot of young talent, draft picks and give yourself the ability over the next couple years to be in a good situation salary-capwise.

You hope in a couple years that 2½ or three of those young guys emerge to be really good players. You look at all the great players that teams have had: When Michael and Scottie left the Bulls, they started over, stockpiled some young talent and now they're back fighting in the East in the playoffs.

Q Really good, what's your definition of that?

A Players you look at and say, 'We're going to build around these guys.' Guys who can become All-Stars. These guys are going to have every opportunity to become that type of player. The competition we're going to have in training camp, forget about coaching, I'm just excited to watch that. I can't play all of them. I've got 16 guys right now. I'm a firm believer in trying to find an eight- or nine-man rotation.

Q Unlike last season, you will implement your philosophies and strategies from the first day of training. What one thing do you want to accomplish in the next month that you couldn't last season because of the circumstances?

A This team is going to compete every night. That's all I really want these guys to understand by the time we get back from Turkey. If we compete every night, if we're worried about each other and not ourselves, we've got enough talent that we're going to surprise a lot of people. If you're going to play, there's no going through the motions, there's no pouting that I'm not getting my shot. That's what I'll stress going into training camp. If we can do that, wins and losses I'm not worried about.

Q When you have such youth, what are your expectations for the season?

A The only expectation is that we're going to compete every night. If we can get them to play hard every night with the talent I think they have, then we can be competitive. I don't think I can put a win-loss record on it. Our goal is to make the playoffs. We're going out every night to win. That's what I want these guys to believe. They're going to hear from the media and everybody else that they're the worst team in the league. I don't believe that. I truly don't. I don't want any of these guys believing it. This is a chance for us to become a young team that grows together.

Q Do you instill that will to compete by having 16 guys on the roster and only eight or nine spots in your playing rotation?

A This is the thing: You're minus a KG, the face of this team, now. We don't have a set starting five. I have no idea who's going to be that sixth, seventh, eighth guy. When you have open competition, you truly find out who's competitive and who's not. Who's going to have the will to fight for what's theirs and who's not. They're going to tell me who the competitive ones are.

Q So ... who's your starting five?

A I don't know. I have no clue. I really don't. These guys are going to prove to me who should start.

Q Without rolling the first basketball out yet, what do you know definitively about this team already?

A We're bigger and much more athletic. Last year, I was really disappointed because we were a team that wouldn't run. You ask any player how they want to play and they say they want to run. OK, then, well, get out and run. Every time I watched, I saw my guys walking the wings. I've got guys -- [Corey] Brewer, [Rashad] McCants, [Gerald] Green, [Sebastian] Telfair, Randy [Foye] -- now who are going to fly. We're not going to be Phoenix, but I don't want to be a team that walks the ball down and plays 5-on-5 basketball. We've got to be able to learn to score as many easy baskets as we can. If you're playing the 1-2-3 positions, you better run. If you can't run, you're probably not going to play.

Q Considering your personality and philosophies, how well suited are you to coaching such a young team?

A It's going to be interesting. As I tell myself and tell management, we have to have patience. We've got to. I'm an extremely, extremely competitive guy. I love winning more than anybody, so that's going to be a test for me. If we get into a streak where it gets a little bumpy, where's my patience?

Q KG was this franchise's face for more than a decade. Who is it now?

A I think that will be painted for us. You can't make it somebody. That's got to be something that emerges. Nobody envisioned when KG came here as an 18-year-old rookie that he'd be what he turned out to be. You can't envision it. It might not be just one player.

Q What will this franchise miss most about KG?

A Oh, geez. We're going to miss everything. He's a Hall of Fame player. We'll miss his enthusiasm, his versatility, his smile. He played as hard as he possibly could every night, whether he had good games or bad games. His personality was just infectious. There were a lot of things that I think I'm going to find out I took for granted with him.

Q When your first head-coaching job in Cleveland ended six years ago, some players there said you didn't communicate well with them and they didn't know their roles. In hindsight, was that valid criticism?

A I was a player. You hear one of two things when guys are not playing: Either, 'There's no communication' or 'I don't know my role.' I'm a straight shooter. These guys will know their roles. I will tell you how it is and what my beliefs are. And I expect the same the other way, whether it's positive or negative. You never know when something is brewing if you keep it inside.

Q This team was 20-20 when you were named head coach last January. It was 12-30 thereafter. Why didn't it play better?

A I don't know, a combination of things. I don't ever want to take over in the middle of a season again. When that happens, there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes that you try to determine which fire is the biggest and put out that fire you think is either the biggest or will become the biggest. Change like that is tough. I keep making excuses why we didn't play better. I just think things festered to the point of no return, through not only our play on the floor but in the locker room.

Q Why are you the right guy for this job right now?

A Time will tell if I'm the right guy. That's a question you'll have to ask Glen [owner Glen Taylor]. I've been in this game for 25 years and I'm in this game for no other reason than I'm a coach and nothing more. I've got a great work ethic. I've bounced around. I'm not going to become a financial planner. This is who I am. When I'm done working, I'm done. I'm retired.

Q You're not going to become a TV analyst?

A [Laughs] No, I'm probably not going to do that. I'm too honest.

Q Do you find yourself looking at that board on your wall often?

A Yes, there's a lot of names up there. A lot of names. Just from that standpoint, this might be one of the competitive camps I've ever been a part of. Like I said, I don't have five guys who everybody knows are our starters and I'm looking for guys to be the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth man. Everything's open. You can be a starter here.

  • TIMBERWOLVES • Q&A with randy wittman

    Training camp opens Saturday • Preseason opener: at Istanbul, Turkey • 1 p.m. Oct. 6

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Cleveland 12:00 PM
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Detroit 12:00 PM
New England
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Jacksonville 12:00 PM
Cincinnati 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay 12:00 PM
Arizona 3:05 PM
St. Louis 3:05 PM
San Diego
Miami 3:25 PM
Washington 3:25 PM
San Francisco
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NY Jets 11/24/14 6:00 PM
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New Orleans
Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
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Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
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Indiana 83
Miami 99 FINAL
Orlando 92
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New York 91
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Cleveland 93
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Houston 95
Sacramento 113 FINAL
Minnesota 101
Brooklyn 87 FINAL
San Antonio 99
Washington 111 FINAL
Milwaukee 100
New Orleans 106 FINAL
Utah 94
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Montreal 2 FINAL
Boston 0
Detroit 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Columbus 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 3
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Dallas 5
Carolina 3 FINAL
Colorado 4
New Jersey 4 FINAL(SO)
Calgary 5
Chicago 7 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Arizona 4 FINAL(SO)
San Jose 3
Incarnate Word 79 FINAL
Princeton 68
Robert Morris 66 FINAL
Georgetown 80
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
Massachusetts 68
Saint Peters 50 FINAL
La Salle 59
Ball State 69 FINAL
Utah State 63 FINAL
Miss State 71
High Point 56 FINAL
Richmond 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 63
Drake 75 FINAL
Western Mich 91
Samford 72 FINAL
CS-Northridge 79
Colgate 54 FINAL
Campbell 48
North Carolina 90 FINAL
Davidson 72
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Northern Iowa 66
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 97 FINAL
Marquette 89
Clemson 59 FINAL
Nevada 50
Florida State 54 FINAL
Providence 80
South Alabama 53 FINAL
Detroit 66
Texas State 67 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 80
Trinity Christian 52 FINAL
Chicago State 75
Liberty 52 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 63
Western State 60 FINAL
Air Force 90
Elon 67 FINAL
Northwestern 68
Canisius 53 FINAL
St Bonaventure 59
MD-Eastern Shore 53 FINAL
St Francis-PA 57
Cleveland State 83 FINAL
Savannah State 87
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Central Arkansas 68
Ark-Little Rock 73
Southern U 48 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 66
Longwood 72 FINAL
Youngstown St 82
Towson 63 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Loyola-Maryland 39 FINAL
Butler 80
San Jose St 66 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 70
Texas Southern 66 FINAL
Norfolk State 76
Yale 53 FINAL
Southern Ill 46
Weber State 58
South Dakota 68 FINAL
Wofford 72
Duquesne 102 FINAL
Abilene Christian 81
Wright State 86 FINAL
Char Southern 79
Miles 71 FINAL
Jacksonville St 88
Binghamton 63 FINAL
Manhattan 78
Alcorn State 80 FINAL
Kennesaw St 83
Bob Jones Univ 50 FINAL
Citadel 81
Piedmont International 33 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 76
Johnson University 41 FINAL
Ga Southern 97
Brown 66 FINAL
Indiana State 78
Colorado 33 FINAL
Wyoming 56
Quinnipiac 76 FINAL
Albany 73
Mount St Marys 73 FINAL
Bucknell 69
Master's College 45 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 91
UNC-Asheville 87 FINAL
East Tenn St 98
Clermont College 50 FINAL
Eastern Ky 115
UNC Greensboro 62 FINAL
Eastern Mich 70
American Univ 44 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 63
Army 76 FINAL
Marist 62
Hartford 65 FINAL
Niagara 62
Lafayette 83 FINAL
Penn 77
Nebraska 62 FINAL
Rhode Island 66
Vermont 60 FINAL
Saint Josephs 68
Eastern Wash 68 FINAL
SMU 77
Temple 50
Chattanooga 67 FINAL
Tenn Tech 69
UNC-Wilmington 110 FINAL
Va Military 93
Ohio Midwestern 48 FINAL
Northern Ky 98
Sam Houston St 74 FINAL
Fairfield 60
UC Davis 58 FINAL
Furman 55
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Kent State 78
Transylvania 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 74
Central Conn St 50 FINAL
Monmouth 65
Oakwood 61 FINAL
Alabama A&M 81
Morgan State 57 FINAL
Houston 72
Lamar 72 FINAL
Indiana 85
Northeastern 68 FINAL
Navy 44
William & Mary 69 FINAL
Rice 65
Missouri State 68 FINAL
Texas Tech 80
TX A&M-Kingsville 77 FINAL
TX-Pan American 82
Southern-New Orleans 45 FINAL
Tulane 89
SE Louisiana 57 FINAL
Western Ill 60
Belmont 64 FINAL
Western Ky 63
Hampton 66 FINAL
North Dakota St 74
Minnesota 69
Houston Baptist 69 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 87
St Thomas Aquinas 55 FINAL
Gonzaga 109
Utah Valley U 85 FINAL
Southern Utah 75
New Mexico St 76 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 77
Stanford 59 FINAL
Duke 70
Morehead State 69 FINAL
Presbyterian 49
SIU Edwardsville 53 FINAL
Portland 75
Boise State 54 FINAL
Wisconsin 78
Valparaiso 8:30 AM
Kent State 0 Cancelled
Buffalo 0
Texas-El Paso 13 FINAL
Rice 31
Air Force 14 FINAL
San Diego St 30
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Utah State 41
Char Southern 9 FINAL
(9) Georgia 55
South Alabama 12 FINAL
So Carolina 37
Rutgers 3 FINAL
(10) Michigan State 45
Minnesota 28 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 24
Northwestern 38 FINAL
Purdue 14
(18) Marshall 23 FINAL
UAB 18
Kansas 7 FINAL
(23) Oklahoma 44
Indiana 27 FINAL
(7) Ohio State 42
Penn State 14 FINAL
Illinois 16
(14) Eastern Ky 3 FINAL
Florida 52
TX-San Antonio 7 FINAL
Western Ky 45
UCF 53
Tulsa 28 FINAL
Houston 38
Virginia Tech 3 FINAL
Wake Forest 6
Washington St 31 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 52
Louisiana Tech 27 FINAL
Old Dominion 30
Western Mich 32 FINAL
Central Mich 20
New Mexico 20 FINAL
(22) Colorado State 58
Eastern Mich 30 FINAL
Ball State 45
Appalachian St 35 FINAL
Louisiana 16
(15) Arizona 42 FINAL
(20) Utah 10
North Texas 17
(8) Ole Miss 0 FINAL
Arkansas 30
Louisville 31 FINAL
Notre Dame 28
Maryland 23 FINAL
Michigan 16
Texas Tech 34 FINAL
Iowa State 31
(14) Wisconsin 26 FINAL
Iowa 24
Syracuse 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
Boston College 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 20
Georgia State 0 FINAL
Clemson 28
Tulane 6 FINAL
East Carolina 34
Stanford 38 FINAL
California 17
Western Carolina 14 FINAL
(2) Alabama 48
New Mexico St 17
So Florida 20 FINAL
Memphis 31
Colorado 10 FINAL
(3) Oregon 44
Fla Atlantic 34 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 35
Samford 7 FINAL
(16) Auburn 31
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
Virginia 30
Vanderbilt 0 FINAL
(4) Miss State 51
(19) Missouri 29 FINAL
Tennessee 21
Oklahoma State 28 FINAL
(6) Baylor 49
(24) USC 20 FINAL
(11) UCLA 38
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
Connecticut 0
Boise State 63 FINAL
Wyoming 14
Oregon State 13 FINAL
Washington 37
Fresno State 40 FINAL
Nevada 20
Hawaii 37
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Texas A&M
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Western Mich
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(18) Marshall
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(9) Georgia
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Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
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(7) Ohio State
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Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
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(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
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(14) Wisconsin
(6) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(12) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
(25) Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
(16) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
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Montreal 12:00 PM
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Grand Canyon 77 FINAL
Austin Peay 84
Bowling Green 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 50
St Bonaventure 68 FINAL
Detroit 56
Illinois-Chicago 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 69
Louisiana Tech 55 FINAL
Louisiana 58
MD-Eastern Shore 57 FINAL
Marshall 74
Butler 77 FINAL
Fairfield 81
Central Conn St 81 FINAL
UMass Lowell 58
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 60
St Marys-CA 57 FINAL
UC Davis 55
UNC-Asheville 53 FINAL
South Florida 97
Colgate 51 FINAL
Drexel 59
Niagara 64 FINAL
Buffalo 73
Vermont 61 FINAL
Boston U 66
Marist 51 FINAL
Northeastern 58
UNC-Wilmington 72 FINAL
Appalachian St 82
Duquesne 52 FINAL
Green Bay 84
Saint Josephs 75 FINAL
Liberty 76
Army 81 FINAL
Manhattan 49
Eastern Michigan 75 FINAL
TX-Pan American 81
Southern Ill 50 FINAL
Wright State 70
Youngstown St 70 FINAL
Radford 44
Stetson 62 FINAL
Indiana State 52
Rockhurst 65 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 55 FINAL
Rice 40
(23) Syracuse 77 FINAL
Jacksonville 61
NC Central 53 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 73
New Orleans 51 FINAL
Jacksonville St 65
(22) Rutgers 64 FINAL
LSU 57
Missouri State 36 FINAL
(21) Oklahoma St 77
Eastern Washington 53 FINAL
SMU 69
Houston Baptist 61 FINAL
Texas State 56
TX-Arlington 61 FINAL
Wichita State 71
(9) Maryland 75 FINAL
George Washington 65
Presbyterian 51 FINAL
Western Carolina 44
St Francis-NY 71 FINAL
Rider 60
Central Arkansas 56 FINAL
Jackson State 45
Kennesaw St 72 FINAL
Georgia Southern 51
Loyola-Chicago 45 FINAL
Northern Ky 38
Howard 64 FINAL
La Salle 65
San Jose St 91 FINAL
Cal-Irvine 65
Tennessee St 73 FINAL
Lipscomb 55
San Francisco 53 FINAL
UC-Riverside 66
Temple 56 FINAL
Kansas 76
San Diego 58 FINAL
Idaho 52
Concordia (OR) 35 FINAL
(20) Oregon State 92
Corban 74 FINAL
Portland State 64
Charleston Southern 48 FINAL
Wofford 55
UT Martin 58 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Eastern Kentucky 64 FINAL
Mercer 69
Weber State 40 FINAL
Utah Valley U 61
North Dakota 54 FINAL
Towson 52
Seton Hall 75 FINAL
Penn State 70
LSU-Shreveport 58 FINAL
Grambling 67
Brown 57 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Penn 60 FINAL
Navy 51
Xavier 89 FINAL
Binghamton 71
Georgetown 58 FINAL
Alabama 72
(13) Kentucky 71 FINAL
Central Michigan 68
Texas Southern 52 FINAL
TCU 69
South Dakota St 62 FINAL
(18) DePaul 84
Talladega 70 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Colorado 80
Alcorn State 43 FINAL
UAB 57
Tenn Tech 61 FINAL
Valparaiso 79
Dayton 83 FINAL
(19) Iowa 88
Nevada 60 FINAL
BYU 65
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