Wizards Assistant Coaches
Randy Wittman, Assistant Coach
With a wealth of NBA coaching experience and basketball knowledge, Randy Wittman is in his second season as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. Prior to coming to Washington, Wittman served as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from January 23, 2007 to December 8, 2008. That marked his third stint with the Timberwolves, as he also served as an assistant coach with Minnesota from 1994-1999 and from 2001-2005.
Wittman earned his first NBA head coaching job in Cleveland, where he led the Cavaliers for two seasons from 1999-2001. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers in 1992, and later worked as an assistant for the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic.
A 1983 graduate of Indiana University, Wittman played collegiately under Bobby Knight, helping the Hoosiers to a NCAA championship in 1981. He was originally drafted by the Washington Bullets with the 22nd pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, but was traded to the Atlanta Hawks prior to the start of the 1983-84 season. Wittman played nine seasons in the NBA for Atlanta, Sacramento and Indiana before retiring in 1992 with a career average of 7.4 points per game (.501 FG%) in 543 games.
As a two-time academic All-American at Indiana, he was also named the Co-Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior in 1983. Wittman was inducted into the Indiana University Hall of Fame in 1995, and in 2007 he was inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame. A native of Indianapolis, Wittman and his wife, Kathy, have two children, Ryan, who plays basketball professionally in Italy, and Lauren.
Don Zierden is in his second season as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards after being named to Flip Saunders’ staff on June 3, 2009. Zierden came to Washington after spending the previous two seasons as head coach of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Prior to working in the WNBA, Zierden served as an assistant coach under Saunders for two seasons with the Detroit Pistons from 2005-07.
The Minnesota native began his NBA working relationship with Saunders in Minnesota with the Timberwolves, where he served as the team’s video coordinator for the 1999-2000 season. Following his first season with Minnesota, he was promoted to assistant coach/director of player development on July 11, 2000. Zierden was a part of the coaching staff that led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals in 2004, and he remained with the club through the 2004-05 season.
Zierden’s coaching career has also included time spent under Saunders at the University of Tulsa (1986-88), and in the Continental Basketball Association with the La Crosse Catbirds (1990-94, including winning the 1992 CBA Championship). Additionally, Zierden has been the head coach of the CBA’s Pittsburgh Piranhas (who he took to the CBA Finals in 1995), and the La Crosse Bobcats.
Zierden resides in Minnesota with his wife, Anne, and two children, Isaiah and Rachel.
Sam Cassell is in his second season in the NBA coaching ranks after his hire by the Wizards on May 21, 2009. Cassell moved to the bench after an outstanding 15-season NBA career, in which he won three NBA championships; two with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995 and one with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
In 993 career regular season games, the former All-Star averaged 15.7 points and 6.0 assists per game. Cassell made his mark as a clutch player in his rookie season in 1994 when he averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds off of the bench in the playoffs to help the Rockets to their first NBA Championship, and was a key contributor on the Rockets squad that won the title again in 1995.
The Baltimore native also appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld’s Milwaukee Bucks in 2001 and the Western Conference Finals with Flip Saunders’ Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004.
The 2003-04 season marked one of Cassell’s finest seasons as a professional, as he averaged 19.8 points and 7.3 assists per game. Cassell was named to the NBA All-Star game for the first time in his career and was also named All-NBA Second Team during that campaign.
Cassell played two seasons at San Jacinto College in Texas before starring at Florida State University from 1991-1993. In 2004, Cassell was inducted into the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame.
Entering his 13th year as a member of the Wizards organization, Wes Unseld Jr. is in his sixth season as an assistant coach.
Just four days after his graduation from The Johns Hopkins University in 1997, Unseld began his career in scouting, with both professional and collegiate responsibilities to the Wizards organization. Promoted to advance scout in his first season, the thirty-four-year-old Unseld has logged over a decade of service in Washington. In September of 2009, Unseld was part of a delegation from the Wizards front office that traveled to China to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the team’s historic visit there in 1979.
The Wizards’ ultimate source of scouting reports both on opposing teams and individuals, Unseld plays a vital role in game planning and preparation. In 2004-05, Unseld was an invaluable member of a staff that guided Washington to its first postseason series victory in over two decades, and his player development skills were paramount to a coaching staff that led the Wizards to a second consecutive playoff appearance in 2005-06; his first season as an assistant coach. Now, after four consecutive postseason appearances from 2004-08, Unseld’s responsibilities continue to grow.
In addition to his nine-year tenure as advance pro scout for the Wizards, Unseld also spent three seasons as an advance scout for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics (1998-2000). In 1998, he spent part of the season serving as assistant coach for the Mystics.
The son of Bullets great Wes Unseld, Unseld Jr. played on The Johns Hopkins’ Blue Jays men’s basketball team for three seasons. Unseld currently resides in Maryland.
In his second season as an NBA assistant coach, Ryan Saunders has continued the family tradition by joining his father on the sidelines.
Saunders came to the Wizards after spending a year coaching under Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers to an NCAA Tournament appearance. In addition to his on-court work, he helped players with their academic and social development off the court.
Before moving to the sidelines, Saunders played four seasons at Minnesota, where he was a two-time team captain, four-time scholar athlete award winner and 2006 Big Ten All-Academic selection. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in applied kinesiology.
Saunders is involved with various youth basketball camps and charitable organizations in Minnesota.
Mike Wells is in his second season as an assistant coach/advance scout for the Washington Wizards, and is in his 17th NBA season. Wells came to the Wizards after spending four seasons in the same role with the San Antonio Spurs, including San Antonio’s NBA Championship season in 2007. Prior to joining the Spurs, Wells spent the 2004-05 season as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers under Rudy Tomjanovich.
Wells began his career in the NBA in 1995 with the eventual NBA Champion Houston Rockets as the team’s assistant video coordinator, and was promoted to video coordinator in 1996. His stint with the Rockets spanned 10 seasons as he became a full-time assistant coach during the summer of 1999. Wells served as a scout for Team USA from 1998-2003 under Tomjanovich and Larry Brown, including the ’98 World Championships, and the 2000 Summer Olympics when Team USA won the gold medal in Sydney, Australia.
A 1993 graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene, Wells served as an assistant coach for the Cougars for two seasons while he obtained a Master’s Degree in Sports Science from the United States Sports Academy. He and his wife, Jacqueline, have one son, Trenton.
Gene Banks is in his second season with the Wizards as assistant coach/player development, with over 30 years of top-level basketball experience to the staff, including stints playing and coaching in the NBA, CBA, NCAA and overseas.
Banks came to basketball prominence as a legend at West Philadelphia High, where he earned All-America honors three seasons and became one of the top recruits in the country as the MVP of the 1977 McDonald’s High School All-American game and the prestigious Dapper Dan Classic for High School All-Americans. Banks then attended Duke University, and finished his collegiate career with averages of 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, while earning First Team All-ACC honors as a senior and Second Team honors his first three seasons (including recognition as the ACC Rookie of the Year after helping the Blue Devils reach the NCAA championship game). Banks was a two-time NCAA All-American, led the ACC in scoring as a senior, and graduated from Duke with a degree in History. After serving as commencement speaker at graduation, he was later inducted into the Duke Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
Following his career at Duke, Banks was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round (28th overall) of the 1981 NBA Draft. He went on to play four seasons (1981-85) for the Spurs before being traded to Chicago, where he would play the final two seasons of his career (1985-87). Banks compiled career averages of 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 468 NBA games, with his best year coming in 1982-83 when he averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting .550 from the floor in 81 games for the Spurs.
Banks also played and served as player/coach overseas in France, Israel, Italy and Argentina and played in the CBA (including La Crosse, where he played under Flip Saunders). He has coached the women’s program at Bluefield State and spent two seasons as the head coach and athletic director at Bennett College.
Banks has been active in the community throughout his playing and coaching career, serving as a motivational speaker and mentoring underprivileged youth through his work with the Gene Banks Foundation. He has two sons and three daughters, all raised by Banks as a widower after his wife, Isabelle, tragically passed away after battling Multiple Sclerosis.