A statement from the Wizards already had been released about the death of former coach Flip Saunders, but there's more to it than that. It's an incredibly personal matter for Randy Wittman who replaced him after his firing here in 2011. The same goes for John Wall, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 on a bad team.
"It's just tough. You lose a colleague, but not only a colleague a great friend," Wittman said of Saunders, who was the president for the Minnesota Timberwolves when he succumbed to lymphoma at 60 on Sunday. "He's been there for me many times to pick me up when I'd been fired or something in my family has gone wrong. It's a tough day."
Wittman was on Saunders' staffs during his first stint in Minnesota and followed him to D.C. Saunders was rehired by the Timberwolves one year ago. He also coached them again, a team he led to the West finals in 2004.
The team Wall played for in his first year under Saunders won just 23 games.
"It's something you think about. Everybody knows he's been sick much lately and knowing certain things he went through. You're going to think about it," said Wall, who is entering his sixth season that will tip off Wednesday at the Orlando Magic. "It's a good opportunity to play in the same place I got to play my first NBA game with him coaching me. (I'll) definitely think about it.
"He was just a great person. Early on when I first got drafted, after summer league and all that, he took me down to his house for like a week and I stayed in Minnesota. ... (His family) brought me in right away and wanted me to be great, took me through the steps, wanted me to be well. We dealt with some tough times early on but we always stayed positive and told me how good of a player I could be if I just keep working.
"Coming in as a rookie I didn't want to say as much and I didn't want to do as much. Just him sticking with me and saying, 'This is the same process I went through with Kevin Garnett.' ... Trying to build my confidence. As a player he wanted me to excel. At times when I was having a lot of turnovers and going to fast, he could've been a coach who said, 'We're going to bench him. We're going to sit him down.' He let me play through my mistakes and try to learn."