Wittman to have back surgery, miss game vs. Lakers

Updated: December 4, 2007, 8:18 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman will have surgery on Wednesday to repair his aching back and will be out indefinitely.

Wittman missed practice on Monday and also Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers to prepare for the surgery. The team said it's unclear when he will resume his duties. Assistant coach Jerry Sichting will coach the Wolves in Wittman's absence.

"This is a situation that has been progressively getting worse," Wittman said in a statement issued by the team before the game against the Lakers. "The doctors said that in order to coach the remainder of the year, that it would be in my best interest to have the back surgery as soon as possible. I wish I could be out there tonight, but I know Jerry and the coaching staff will do a great job."

Sichting said Tuesday night before the game that he had heard plenty from Wittman during the day and even joked about communicating with him during the game.

"He wants to be here so bad," Sichting said. "I told him I could bring my phone and, with the technology we have today, he could just text message me during the game if he wanted to. But that probably won't work out too well."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson knows what Wittman is going through. He had hip replacement surgery before last season and missed the preseason while in recovery.

"My sympathies go out to Randy for this situation," Jackson said. "It's obviously very serious because you can kind of patch it together, and I'm sure he has been for a while."

In self-deprecating fashion, Jackson said he thought his time away from the Lakers last season was a benefit to the team. With Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm also out at the time with injuries, Jackson said the role players got quality time with assistants Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons.

"They all participated in really drilling the guys and I thought we started out the season great," Jackson said. "Until my coaching took effect, and then we kind of fell apart."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press