The Washington Wizards finally appear to have their new head coach. On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Denver Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld, Jr. was offered the position and final contract details will be done soon. It will be a homecoming for Unseld, because he was an assistant coach for the Wizards from 2005-11 and a scout before then.
A deal will tie together a remarkable homecoming: Unseld’s late father, Wes Unseld, is the most important figure in franchise history -- a Hall of Fame player, coach and executive with Washington. https://t.co/grv6BRHPvp— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 16, 2021
Darren Haynes of WUSA-TV was the first to report the news.
BREAKING NEWS— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) July 16, 2021
The #Wizards will hire Wes Unseld Jr. as their next head coach. There will be an announcement or press conference today or on Monday. @wusa9 @WUSA9sports #DCAboveAll https://t.co/oCHjlswbEr
Unseld has been with the Nuggets since the 2015-16 NBA season and has become the lead assistant on Michael Malone’s staff where he has been in charge or improving the team defense, which has been above the league average in the last three seasons. The Nuggets have made three consecutive second-round playoff appearances, including a Western Conference Finals appearance in the 2019-20 season.
In addition to his previous stint with the Wizards and Nuggets, Unseld was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors (2011-12) and Orlando Magic (2012-15).
In Washington, Unseld will be tasked with improving the Wizards from a first round playoff exit and a 34-38 regular season record last year. He will have a challenge coaching a couple different teams, one that is expected to contend for the playoffs and another expected to rebuild, in case the current Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook backcourt doesn’t last long term.
And there’s also the fact that Unseld will be in his late father’s shadow. Unseld is the son and namesake of the Wizards’ best player of all time. Unlike his father, who only spent time as a player, coach and executive with the then-Bullets, the younger Unseld has spent a significant amount of time outside of Washington where he was able to build his reputation on his own terms.
Now, barring an unexpected turn of events, we will see if he can turn the Wizards from a playoff contender into a championship one over the next few seasons. It just feels like the “Circle of Life” will soon be completed.
Welcome home, coach.