AL HAMNIK: Wizards' Randy Wittman credits his 'teacher'

2014-01-13T19:30:00Z 2014-01-14T18:51:08Z AL HAMNIK: Wizards' Randy Wittman credits his 'teacher'Al Hamnik Times Columnist
January 13, 2014 7:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Bob Knight was a blowhard, a bully at Indiana University and then Texas Tech.

But the man sure could coach basketball.

Three of his former players at IU — Mike Woodson (Knicks), Randy Wittman (Wizards) and Keith Smart (Kings) — were head coaches in the NBA last season.

Woodson and Wittman are still at it.

The Wizards were in Chicago on Monday to play the Bulls and I asked Wittman how Knight and Indiana basketball prepared him for the NBA's incredible pressure and daily grind.

He answered quicker than a Chris Paul no-look pass.

"Philosophy. Preparation. That was the main thing we learned from Coach," Wittman said. "Making sure you do your job each night and never put a team out there that's not prepared."

Wittman has paid his dues and then some since helping lead the Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA Championship. He played nine NBA seasons with Atlanta, Sacramento and Indiana, then was an assistant at Indiana, Dallas and Orlando.

He had brief stints as head coach of the Cavaliers and Timberwolves before hooking on with Washington.

Think of his resume' as a savings account that one day pays great interest with a winning franchise.

That's not the current Wizards, who have only six winning seasons since 1986-87 and are now rebuilding around John Wall.

"You have to be prepared for anything that might happen and that was (Knight's) philosophy," Wittman said. "How to play defensively, how to move the ball offensively, and not play a game that boils down to one or two guys saving your butt."

Keith Smart, who hit the game-winning shot in the 1987 NCAA Championship win over Syracuse, had said the same thing during his visits to Chicago as interim head coach at Cleveland, Golden State and Sacramento.

Woodson echoed their sentiments as an assistant with the Bucks, Cavs, 76ers, Pistons and then as boss man of the Hawks and Knicks.

A graduate of Indianapolis Broad Ripple, Woodson has often said he had to convince Bob Knight he could fit into the "system" at Indiana.

"You had to be able to pass and shoot and dribble, and play without the basketball, you know, the motion offense," Woodson once told the New York Post.

"That was Indiana basketball. And Bob Knight is the one who really instilled a lot of the fundamentals and how high school coaches taught their teams."

Wittman was another quick learner at IU. He had no other choice if he didn't want to be a dust bunny on the bench.

"Be accountable as a player at all times," Wittman said. "Playing under pressure situations, which we always did at Indiana, helped us deal with the situations at this (NBA) level."

Credit Bob Knight, love him or hate him.

There, I said it.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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