After parting ways with Scott Brooks earlier this month after five seasons with the franchise, the Washington Wizards were the last team standing when it came to hiring a head coach. Now, they’ve found their man. The team is hiring Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. as their next head coach, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Milwaukee Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee were also finalists for the position, but it appears as though Washington has decided on Unseld. All three coaches have been in contention for other head-coaching positions around the league. Unseld will now inherit a Wizards roster that has pressure to win right now with star veterans Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.
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Unseld has connections to the Wizards as he previously spent 13 seasons with the organization, most of which was spent as an assistant coach in charge of player development. In addition, his father, the late Wes Unseld, is arguably the most important person in franchise history. He spent 13 seasons with the team as a player, winning MVP in 1969 and leading the then-Bullets to their only title in 1978. Later on, he spent time as the team’s head coach and worked in the front office.
Most recently, Unseld spent the past six seasons coaching under Mike Malone and has been responsible for leading the team’s defensive scheme. He was elevated to associate head coach this season, after five years as an assistant. He’s also spent time as an assistant with the Orlando Magic and Golden State Warriors.
By honing in on an assistant to fill the head-coaching vacancy in Washington, it signals that the Wizards are willing to give a first-time head coach a shot to help rebuild this team into consistent playoff contenders. However, there’s pressure in D.C. to be more than just a playoff team as Beal’s future with the team has been a ticking clock for the past few years. There will be high expectations placed on Unseld’s shoulders and he will be expected to win right away with the roster the Wizards already have.