The Washington Wizards have named Wes Unseld Jr. as the franchise’s new head coach. Unseld Jr. becomes the 25th head coach in the organization’s history.
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“Wes is one of the most highly-regarded assistant coaches in the NBA and clearly separated himself from the large and diverse group of candidates we considered,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “His strong record as an in-game tactician along with his attention to detail on both sides of the ball, combined with his reputation for player development and outstanding character during his 20+ years of coaching left no doubt that he was the best choice to guide our team to the next level.”
“I want to thank Tommy and Mr. Leonsis for the opportunity to lead this talented team both on and off the court and to continue moving the franchise in a positive direction,” said Unseld Jr. “Becoming a head coach in the NBA is a goal that I have pursued my entire adult life and to have that dream realized by coming full circle back to Washington is truly special. I look forward to representing the DMV, connecting with our fans and establishing a new standard for Wizards basketball.”
Unseld’s return to DC punctuates a remarkable homecoming. His late father, Wes Unseld, is the most important figure in franchise history as a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame player, coach and executive with Washington. Unseld Jr., completed two days of interviews in Washington D.C., on Friday, including with owner Ted Leonsis, and received an offer later in the day to become the franchise’s next head coach.
He will be the seventh African American head coach hired out of eight openings this offseason in the NBA. New Orleans is finalizing an agreement with Suns assistant Willie Green, and Portland (Chauncey Billups), Atlanta (Nate McMillan), Orlando (Jamahl Mosely), Boston (Ime Udoka) and Dallas (Jason Kidd) hired African American coaches. Four of them — including Unseld Jr., Mosely, Billups and Green — are assistants getting first-time opportunities as head coaches.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Wes Unseld Jr., has agreed to a four-year deal to become the new head coach of the Washington Wizards, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Wizards offered the job to Denver’s associate head coach on Friday, and worked out terms today to complete a formal agreement, sources said.
Mike Singer: As reported yesterday, the #Nuggets worked hard on Wes Unseld Jr.’s behalf. Tim Connelly, in particular, made numerous calls to the Wizards endorsing his credentials.
Michael Singer: #Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. had two interviews with the Wizards before flying to D.C. to meet with them this week, a source told @denverpost. On Friday, they offered him the job. denverpost.com/2021/07/16/wes…
Shams Charania: The Washington Wizards are finalizing hiring Denver Nuggets associate Wes Unseld Jr. as the franchise’s next head coach, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium .
Denver Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has emerged as the leader to be the Washington Wizards’ new head coach, sources tell The Athletic. Other finalists for the job include two Milwaukee Bucks assistants, Darvin Ham and Charles Lee, sources say.
Unseld Jr., who grew up in the D.C. area, began his career as an advanced scout with the Wizards in 1997 and then moved into an assistant coaching role in 2005. He went to the Golden State Warriors as an assistant in 2011-12 and then to the Orlando Magic from 2012-15 and finally joined the Nuggets in 2015 until now.
He receives the most praise for his work with the Nuggets defense, which finished 11th in points allowed per possession this past season. As one person who has worked intimately with Unseld told The Athletic last week, “You got guys like Joker, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., where their strength is not defense. … The fact that he makes them even average defenders in this league is an impressive feat.”
Shams Charania: Denver Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is emerging as the leader to be the Washington Wizards’ new head coach, sources tell me and @FredKatz .
Michael Singer: Have heard, as @Adrian Wojnarowski reported, that #Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is a frontrunner for the Washington head coaching job. I expect a decision to be made in the next few days.
Turning 50 next month, Phil Handy figures to be a part of other memorable runs. While he’s made no indication that he is leaving Los Angeles, he does have ambitions to be a head coach someday. Two people with knowledge of the situation told SCNG that Handy interviewed for the Washington Wizards head coaching job last month. More such interviews are likely in the coming years for a coach who has been on a number of winning staffs.
As the Washington Wizards move through the second round of interviews in their head coaching search, soon general manager Tommy Sheppard will meet with the team’s star guards Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to discuss the finalists and get their feedback before making the final decision on whom to hire.
Beal told NBC Sports Washington of those plans in an interview ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. He is in training camp with Team USA while the Wizards continue to search for a replacement for Scott Brooks, whose contract expired.
Beal added the team getting a new coach was a part of the business of the NBA and that he trusts Sheppard’s vision moving forward. The Wizards are now three weeks into their search, which Sheppard indicated early on would take some time. The Wizards have honed in on a group of assistant coaches from around the NBA. That may explain why it has taken this long, as the Wizards are vetting people who do not have previous track records as head coaches to evaluate.
Chris Haynes: Washington Wizards interviewed Ronald Nored for a second time recently for the head coach opening, league sources tell @YahooSports. The young assistant has been with Charlotte, but anticipated to be joining Rick Carlisle’s staff in Indiana.
Michael Singer: #Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has emerged as a finalist in both Orlando and Washington, per a source.
The Washington Wizards interviewed Phoenix Suns assistant coach Kevin Young before their second round of interviews, league sources told HoopsHype. Young is a name to monitor for future head coaching vacancies.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Washington’s search process for a new coach has narrowed to several assistants, including Dallas’ Jamahl Mosley, Milwaukee’s Darvin Ham and Charles Lee and Denver’s Wes Unseld, Jr., sources tell ESPN. Those are among the candidates who will talk to Wizards again this week.
Fred Katz: The Wizards recently interviewed Bucks assistant Darvin Ham for their head coach opening, sources tell @David Aldridge and myself, and there’s some support for him in the building. Ham, 47, played the 1997-98 season with the Wizards.
Fred Katz: Ham has interviewed for other head coaching positions in the past, including the Celtics this year, as well as the opening at his alma mater, Texas Tech. He interviewed for the Clippers, Bulls and Pacers jobs last year.
Jeff Zillgitt: Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. interviewed with the Wizards today, I’m told. His dad, Wes Unseld Sr., played for the Wizards and was a front-office executive and coach for the team.
Two two weeks after the dismissal of Scott Brooks as Wizards head coach, more names of those drawing interest and participating in interviews to become his replacement are coming out. Bulls assistant coach Chris Fleming is among those who have interviewed for the vacancy, NBC Sports Washington has learned.
As NBC Sports Washington reported at the onset of the search, the Wizards are valuing international experience as they appear likely to hire someone who has not previously been an NBA head coach. The Wizards had more international players than any other NBA team at the beginning of the 2020-21 regular season and general manager Tommy Sheppard has long been entrenched in the global game.
Michael Scotto: Sources: The Washington Wizards interviewed Hornets assistant Ronald Nored and Heat assistant Chris Quinn. Nored is also a potential candidate to join Rick Carlisle’s staff with the Indiana Pacers. More on @HoopsHype. hoopshype.com/lists/damian-l…
Fred Katz: The Wizards interviewed 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell for their open head coaching position today, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA. Cassell was an assistant for the Wizards from 2009-2014.
The Wizards’ search for a new head coach is almost two weeks old as other teams around the league continue to fill their vacancies. Here are some notes on the search, which does not appear to be nearing its end soon… *The Wizards’ head coaching search continues to focus on NBA assistants and ones who have not been head coaches before. That trend was reported last week and has continued with each name made public. The Wizards appear to know what they want and that seems to be an up-and-comer who could grow with the roster and bring a fresh perspective.
*One name that has emerged, Scott Morrison, has coached for the Canadian national team and served as the head coach of the Celtics’ G-League affiliate. Don’t be surprised if you hear more candidates with that type of background. As NBC Sports Washington reported, the Wizards are looking at candidates with international experience and that tracks with general manager Tommy Sheppard’s record as an executive. Experience in the international ranks or in the G-League could help separate some assistants from others, as they all aim to become NBA head coaches for the first time.
In the ‘former Wizards assistant coach with a recognizable name’ category, the sense is Wes Unseld Jr. has a better chance than Sam Cassell. Despite his popularity among fans, Cassell’s name isn’t coming up as much as some might expect. Cassell has a big proponent in Bradley Beal, and Beal of course has power within the organization, but he’s also not the type to use that power to create any sort of ultimatum. At least, he hasn’t shown that tendency in the past.
Things have been quiet on the Unseld front since the initial news the Wizards were interested. That shouldn’t be read into too much, as the Wizards have kept much of their search out of the public, as evidenced by the lack of names being reported comparative to other jobs. If they do move forward with Unseld, it would make a lot of sense. You could take his father’s legacy and name out of the equation and he would still be very qualified for the job.
In his first year as an assistant with the Clippers, Billups also recently interviewed for the Portland Trail Blazers’ head-coaching job and has drawn interest from several more teams with openings, including Washington, Orlando and New Orleans, sources told ESPN. Billups is a prominent candidate in the Blazers’ search, sources said.
In his press conference on Wednesday to discuss the departure of Scott Brooks and the beginning of the search to replace him, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard used words like “diverse” and “inclusive” to describe the process of finding their next head coach. Though he spoke for nearly 40 minutes, he did not go into detail about what he meant. According to someone familiar with their plans, women and coaches from the international ranks are expected to be on the discussion list.
The plan to look at making history with the first female head coach in the NBA is not unique to the Wizards. Though the Wizards are still putting their initial list of candidates together, several women have been mentioned for other vacancies like Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Pelicans assistant Theresa Witherspoon, Duke head coach Kara Lawson and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.
Ohm Youngmisuk: GM Tommy Sheppard says he looks at who is still playing left in the playoffs and says it is a reminder of a very diverse collection of head coaches and staffs and the different backgrounds they all come from.
Ava Wallace: As for a timeline for hiring a new coach, Tommy Sheppard says he doesn’t want to be rushed, to pick a date on a calendar would be unwise, but “Aug. 2 is out there,” as the start of free agency.
Fred Katz: First thing Tommy Sheppard says when asked what traits he values in a coach is someone who’s a strong communicator with the players. Also mentioned defensive acumen and offensive mindset. Said the age of one coach running everything is gone. Still wants an O/D coordinator.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard said the Wizards coaching search will be a “very diverse, very robust” search. He said he it will “be very thorough” and very “diverse” and “inclusive” search.
Michael Singer: Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is expected to be in the mix for the Washington job, a league source tells @denverpost.
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August 2, 2021 | 7:49 am EDT Update
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August 2, 2021 | 1:19 am EDT Update
“It looks like [Kawhi] is expected to re-sign with the Clippers, but sources informed me that he will listen to other teams.” @ChrisBHaynes on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency