To this point, nobody has been seriously linked to the job, though it appears that Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. is likely getting an interview. Before you scream “NEPOTISM” since he is the son of the GOAT himself, Unseld has been on Denver’s staff for the last six seasons, is well known for player development, and the Nuggets have done better than the Wizards to say the least. But he won’t be the only person they consider.
According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington last week, the Wizards will have a diverse set of coaching candidates, which could include female candidates and those who are in overseas leagues. There will likely be some movement on this process around the NBA Draft Combine which is this week.
And yesterday, Marc Stein of The New York Times wrote in his newsletter that if the Wizards hire a current NBA assistant coach to be the next head coach, then it’s important to see what guard Russell Westbrook’s feelings are about the move. He was in full support of Brooks staying so last week’s news certainly wasn’t something he would like, though the news isn’t unexpected either.
The snippet is below, though I would be careful about over-reading anything. But that said, from Stein and Hughes, the Wizards seem to be focusing on assistants more than established head coaches.
I've mentioned this in a few radio interviews the last few days. Hearing the same. Much of the focus of the Wizards' search so far has been on up-and-comers. https://t.co/RL2XJujrU8— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) June 23, 2021
All of that said, there’s something in Stein’s newsletter which is telling against the other teams he mentioned if they had a head coaching vacancy. He couldn’t say if any specific name is tied to the search while plenty of names were mentioned with other vacancies. Rumors are rumors, but I’m not sure why the Wizards are apparently more secretive than others.
As for the news itself, I’m not surprised that the Wizards are looking more toward an assistant coach than a “retread,” whether his name is Terry Stotts, Jason Kidd or Rick Carlisle. The team has been in a quasi-rebuild of sorts, adding Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija in the draft in each of the last two seasons. Washington also could find themselves in a rebuild situation anyway once Westbrook’s and Bradley Beal’s contracts expire in a couple of seasons.
At the same time, the Wizards have made no attempt to hide the fact that they want to win and be a forward-thinking organization. If hiring Brooks five years ago was a “safe move” that then-President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld would do, Sheppard seems to be more likely take a bigger risk by hiring a younger coach or one who hasn’t been an NBA head coach yet. Hopefully, the new head coach will be well-received by the fanbase whenever that announcement happens.