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Who would be the best fit as the Wizards’ next head coach?

The Washington Wizards now have an opportunity to make things right with their next head coach. And here are many of the names whom we should consider.

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets
Wes Unseld Jr. is believed to be one possible candidate to be the Wizards’ next head coach.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE on June 18, 2021 — Rick Carlisle has left the Dallas Mavericks so some light updates have been made accordingly.

Scott Brooks will not be the head coach the Washington Wizards next season. They now join five other teams: the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans as teams with head coaching vacancies.

I already wrote a rough list of coaches who could be an NBA head coach last week, and that’s updated for this one.

Coaches who may be linked to the job

  • Wes Unseld Jr., Nuggets — He is Denver’s lead assistant and was with their team since 2015. In addition, beyond the fact that he’s the son of the Wizards’ GOAT himself, Unseld spent six seasons with the Wizards from 2005-11. A shoutout to Ben Mehic for this:

Former NBA Head Coaches

This is a list of retreads, or the men who have been a head coach of an NBA team, whether this season or sometime in the past.

  • Rick Carlisle, former Mavericks HC — Carlisle was Dallas’ head coach from 2008-21 where he led the team to the 2011 NBA championship. Before his stop in Dallas, he was with the Pistons and Pacers and was considered to be a “stereotypical retread” coach. Though he won an NBA title, it was 10 years ago and the Mavericks haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs ever since. He has ties to the mid-Atlantic because he was the starting point guard for the Virginia Cavaliers during and right after the Ralph Sampson Era from 1982-84.
  • Terry Stotts, former Trail Blazers HC — He spent nine years in Portland, making the NBA Playoffs in all but his first year. The Blazers made the Western Conference Finals which is better than the Wizards! Either way, he’s the head coach with the best track record on this list.
  • Lloyd Pierce, former Hawks HC — He spent over 10 years as an assistant before coming to a rebuilding Atlanta team. Unfortunately, like most rebuilding teams’ head coaches, he never got to see them through to this season, where they are in the second round of the playoffs. I think Pierce deserves a chance and the Wizards could be an opportunity for him.
  • Steve Clifford, former Magic HC — Clifford’s teams have often punched above their weight defensively, which could be very helpful for the Wizards who were poor defensively during most of Brooks’ tenure.
  • Brett Brown, former 76ers HC — He saw most things through with “The Process” as Philly turned from a doormat-by-design into a championship contender. Hopefully, he gets another shot with another team very soon, perhaps even here.
  • Stan Van Gundy, former Pelicans HC — He has a 554-425 record as head coach which include a trip to the 2008-09 NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic. That said, he has had power struggles with star players during his time in Orlando and the front office back in Miami. He also hasn’t coached a team past the first round of the playoffs in his last seven coaching seasons — and let’s face it. He was fired after one season in New Orleans today.
  • Jason Kidd, Lakers assistant — His tenure with the Nets and Bucks as a head coach have ended with a power struggle and a firing, respectively. While he probably will be a candidate for some teams, I don’t think he’d be a good fit here because I expect things to end badly here.
  • Mike D’Antoni, Nets assistant — His best head coaching stints have been with the Suns (2003-08) and the Rockets (2016-20). The offenses he has coached have often been stellar, and this Wizards team has the potential to be another one of those kinds of teams in my opinion.

Assistants with no NBA head coaching experience

These assistants are either among those who are linked to coaching jobs. None have been an NBA head coach:

  • Becky Hammon, Spurs — She is San Antonio’s top assistant and is interviewing for some of these head coaching vacancies. This isn’t the best team with a vacancy, but not the worst either. As one of the WNBA’s best guards of all time, her playing experience could also work out very well with Beal and Westbrook. That said, she may be angling to succeed Gregg Popovich who isn’t a spring chicken. And San Antonio has also missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.
  • Sam Cassell, 76ers — Cassell was with the Wizards from 2009-14 and was with Beal for his first two NBA seasons. Since then, he has been a mainstay on Doc Rivers’ staffs with the Clippers and now the 76ers. He would be a popular name among the fans if hired.
  • Johnnie Bryant, KnicksHe has spent most of his time with Utah as a player development coach where the team has become a perennial force in the Western Conference.
  • Jarron Collins, former Warriors assistant — He was on Steve Kerr’s staff during their glory years when they won three NBA championships. Collins is openly looking for a head coaching opportunity as well and left Golden State for that reason.
  • Chauncey Billups, Clippers — He has only been an assistant one year in LA under Tyronn Lue’s staff, but his reputation as a long-time player and 2004 NBA Finals MVP will help him get a leg up somewhere.
  • Darvin Ham, Bucks — He has been on Mike Budenholzer’s staffs from 2013 to the present with the Hawks and Bucks who have both made the Eastern Conference Finals where he is well-known as a player development coach. In addition, Ham played for the Wizards in the 1997-98 season so he has some ties with the franchise as well.
  • Teresa Weatherspoon, Pelicans — Weatherspoon was an assistant on New Orleans’ staff last season and is well-liked by their players. Like Hammon, she is also one of women’s basketball’s best guards of all time and made of the WNBA’s most memorable shots. Her only head coaching experience was at her alma mater, Louisiana Tech, where she was the women’s basketball head coach from 2009-14, leading them to two NCAA tournament berths. And yes, the Pelicans are seriously considering Weatherspoon to coach them as well.

College Coaches

College team head coaches are sometimes linked to NBA head coaching positions. So here are those who could be linked to any NBA head coaching job, Wizards or otherwise:

  • Juwan Howard, Michigan MBB — Howard was a long-time Bullets/Wizards player in the 1990s and was with the Miami Heat for several seasons as a player and then an assistant before heading to his alma mater. Last season, the Wolverines made an Elite Eight appearance. I would think that Howard wants to win a championship there before going to the NBA again, this time as a head coach. Finally, he is only entering his third season there.
  • Kara Lawson, Duke WBB — Lawson was named as a possible candidate for the Boston Celtics head coaching position because she was held in high regard by now-President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens. Here in D.C., Lawson was the Wizards’ TV color analyst for two seasons (2017-19) and also played two years for the Mystics (2014-15) toward the end of her WNBA career. Still, I find it hard to see Lawson leave Duke for the NBA because she only spent one year in Durham, and they only played four games due to coronavirus concerns. Also, Duke just hired Jon Scheyer as its next men’s basketball head coach, effective in 2022-23 so they’re looking to stabilize the situations with their basketball teams right now.
  • Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt MBB — Stackhouse is entering his third year in Nashville and has been a long-time NBA player where he spent two years with the Wizards (2002-04). However, the Commodores haven’t been .500 in either of his two seasons though he took this job as a rebuilding project. If they get back to the NCAA tournament pretty soon, he could be a hotter name at that time.
  • Patrick Ewing, Georgetown MBB — Ewing has been leading the Hoyas since 2017 where he’s been rebuilding the program after spending 16 years as an NBA assistant coach. The Hoyas had an unexpected run to the NCAA Tournament last season by winning the Big East Tournament. But I think Ewing would rather stay at Georgetown to see this rebuild through since this is his alma mater. If there’s an NBA head coaching job he could leave Georgetown for, it would have to be the New York Knicks, the franchise where he spent the majority of his Hall of Fame playing career.
  • Dawn Staley, South Carolina WBB/USAB women’s national team — Staley, like Hammon and Weatherspoon, is one of women’s basketball’s best guards of all-time, going back to her college days for the Virginia Cavaliers and through her WNBA and Hall of Fame playing career. As a head coach, she led the Temple Owls to multiple NCAA tournament berths while also playing in the WNBA. And at South Carolina, she led the Gamecocks to the 2017 NCAA women’s basketball championship. You can also see her coaching the USA women’s team this summer in Tokyo where she led them to the 2018 FIBA World Cup gold medal. Staley isn’t closing the door on moving from college to the NBA either and the Trail Blazers have her on their interview list.

There could be a lot more coaches on this list, but here are the big names that people muse about. No one has been hired yet so the Wizards can get in the mix for anyone they want, even if they’re a little late to the party.

Who would you like to see? Sam Cassell or Wes Unseld, Jr. because they’ve been on the Wizards’ bench before? Would you want Terry Stotts, the best name among the established head coaches on the list? Or would you like to see the Wizards be the first (or possibly the first of multiple) NBA team(s) to hire a woman as their next head coach?

Let us know in the comments below!