Wes Unseld Jr. put in plenty of time before earning his first chance to be a head coach, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Unseld, who was formally hired by the Wizards on Saturday after weeks of speculation, was also a finalist for the head coaching vacancy in Orlando.
He comes to Washington from Denver, where he served as associate head coach under Michael Malone. Unseld was in charge of the Nuggets’ defensive schemes and is known for working closely with players, often customizing the approach to make them more comfortable, Katz notes. He has been an NBA assistant for 16 years and spent eight years as an advance scout with the Wizards, where he worked with general manager Tommy Sheppard.
“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,” Unseld said in a press release announcing his hiring. “I look forward to representing the DMV (Washington, D.C., metropolitan area), connecting with our fans and establishing a new standard for Wizards basketball.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Unseld will face some unique challenges in his new post, observes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Management wasn’t satisfied with this year’s first-round playoff exit, and there’s urgency to improve right away with Russell Westbrook about to turn 33 and Bradley Beal facing an opt-out decision next summer. If the Wizards don’t get off to a strong start in Unseld’s first season, the team will have to consider moving Beal before the trade deadline, Hughes adds.
- The drafting record of general manager Travis Schlenk has put the Hawks in position to be contenders for a long time, states Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Schlenk didn’t have a lottery pick in his first draft, but was able to get John Collins at No. 18. Since then, he has added Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Onyeka Okongwu. Even if Collins leaves in free agency, Hunter is poised to take his place, Bradley adds.
- The Hornets will bring in Kai Jones for a private workout today, the team announced on Twitter. The Texas forward is ranked 20th on ESPN’s big board, and Charlotte holds a lottery pick at No. 11.