Charles Lee

Wes Unseld Jr., Darvin Ham Leading Contenders To Become Wizards Coach

The frontrunners in the Wizards‘ search for a new head coach are Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. and Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Bucks assistant Charles Lee is also a finalist for the job, Woj adds.

All three were reported last week as moving past the first round of interviews, along with former Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley, who was hired as head coach of the Magic over the weekend. Washington and New Orleans are the only teams currently without a head coach.

Unseld is the sentimental choice for Wizards fans because his father was a legend in the area as a five-time All-Star with the Bullets. The younger Unseld started his coaching career with the Wizards in 2005 and spent time with the Warriors and Magic before coming to Denver.

Ham has been as assistant under Budenholzer for the past eight years in Milwaukee and Atlanta. His coaching career began with the Lakers in 2011.

The Wizards have been looking for a coach since deciding not to extend Scott Brooks‘ contract in mid-June.

Wizards Notes: Nored, Coaching Search, Beal, Workouts

The Wizards recently conducted a second interview with Ronald Nored for their head coaching job, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

A report last week indicated that Nored was close to leaving his position as a Hornets assistant for a role on Rick Carlisle‘s staff in Indiana. Haynes’ report today suggests Nored may still be in the running for Washington’s top job — presumably, if he isn’t hired by the Wizards, the 31-year-old will pivot to finalizing a deal with the Pacers.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Besides Nored, the Wizards’ top head coaching candidates are believed to be Wes Unseld Jr., Charles Lee, Darvin Ham, and Jamahl Mosley (who may be hired by the Magic). Fred Katz of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at those four contenders for the job to assess what they could bring to the organization.
  • Before the Wizards finalize their head coaching hire, general manager Tommy Sheppard will meet with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to get their feedback on the finalists, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
  • Within the same NBC Sports Washington story, Beal says he appreciated the five years he spent playing for Scott Brooks. “When I first got the news (Brooks wouldn’t return), it was tough,” Beal said. “Scotty was great. This is my second coach I’ve played for and even when I talked to him afterwards, (I said) how grateful I was towards him. He helped change my game and evolved my game to what it is now.”
  • The Wizards are working out a pair of guards today, according to Hughes, who tweets that Arizona State’s Josh Christopher and Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu are visiting the team. Christopher and Dosunmu rank 33rd and 34th, respectively, on ESPN’s big board for the 2021 draft, so it seems like a long shot that the Wizards would select either with the No. 15 pick.

Willie Green, Charles Lee Among Top Candidates To Coach Pelicans

Suns assistant Willie Green and Bucks assistant Charles Lee are “prominent” candidates in the Pelicans‘ head coaching search, according to Marc Stein (Twitter link).

Earlier in the process, Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn was considered the frontrunner to replace Stan Van Gundy as New Orleans’ new head coach, but he withdrew from consideration last week for family reasons. Now, it appears the Pelicans have their eye on two other veteran assistant coaches. New Orleans’ own assistant, Fred Vinson, has also interviewed for the position, Stein notes.

A former NBA shooting guard, Green transitioned into the coaching ranks in 2016, working with the Warriors as an assistant for three seasons before making the move to Phoenix in 2019. He has been on Monty Williams‘ staff for the last two years and has generated some buzz as an up-and-coming head coaching candidate, having also talked to the Wizards and Magic about their vacancies.

Lee is also a former shooting guard, having played at Bucknell from 2002-06 and then in international leagues until 2010. After joining his alma mater as an assistant coach in 2012, he was hired as part of Mike Budenholzer‘s staff in Atlanta in 2014. Lee followed Budenholzer to Milwaukee in 2018 and – like Green – is now receiving head coaching interest from multiple teams — he’s said to be one of the Wizards’ finalists.

Green and Lee are set to face one another in the NBA Finals, beginning on Tuesday night.

While many candidates have been linked to the Wizards’ and Magic’s head coaching jobs, things have been relatively quiet on the Pelicans front. Besides the names mentioned above, Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon has been the only other contender confirmed to be in the mix, and David Griffin downplayed the chances of her being promoted. It’s possible New Orleans’ search has been fairly narrow, but it’s just as likely that a number of meetings have gone unreported.

Wizards Identifying Finalists In Head Coaching Search

Having moved through the first phase of their head coaching search, the Wizards are identifying finalists and are zeroing in on a handful of assistant coaches from around the NBA, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Jamahl Mosley (Mavericks), Darvin Ham (Bucks), Charles Lee (Bucks), and Wes Unseld Jr. (Nuggets) are among the candidates who remain in contention for Washington’s coaching job and who will meet with the team again, Wojnarowski reports. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Mosley and Unseld are also serious candidates to fill the Magic‘s coaching vacancy.

While some clubs that have sought a new head coach this offseason have made it a priority to land a candidate with previous head coaching experience, it appears the Wizards are very open to the idea of hiring a first-timer. Virtually all of the candidates linked to Washington throughout the process – including those listed above – lack head coaching experience.

As we’ve noted in previous stories, hiring Unseld would perhaps be the best story for the Wizards, since his father was a D.C. legend who played for the team and held various positions with the organization following his retirement. However, Mosley, Ham, and Lee are all also accomplished assistants who have worked for multiple NBA teams and who have received head coaching interest in the past.

In addition to the Wizards and Magic, the Pelicans also continue to search for a new head coach, as our tracker shows.

Southwest Notes: Martin, Lillard, Lee, Vinson

Rookie Rockets small forward Kenyon Martin Jr., a second-generation NBA player, showed promise during his first NBA season, per Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle.

Martin noted that living his childhood while his father Kenyon Martin Sr. enjoyed a successful 15-year NBA career helped prep him for the ups and downs of the Rockets’ fortunes during Jr.’s first season.

“My first game back from the G League, I honestly got kind of nervous or whatever but I just thought to myself, ‘It’s still basketball,’ so I just go out and play and not really think about that,” Martin said. Across 45 games for the Rockets, the 6’6″ rookie averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG, while shooting a solid .509/.365/.714.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • If Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard truly wants to be dealt from the team where he has spent his entire NBA career, the Pelicans should do all they can to acquire him in a trade, says Scott Kushner of Given that New Orleans has 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram and a litany of draft picks to trade, the club can at least get in the mix with a competitive offer, Kushner adds. Pairing Lillard with rising Pelicans All-Star Zion Williamson could benefit both players in their quest to win the West.
  • 36-year-old Bucks assistant coach Charles Lee has served under two largely successful tenures with head coach Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks and Milwaukee since 2014. Will Guillory of The Athletic explores Lee’s potential fit guiding the similarly youthful roster of the Pelicans to the next level, should he become the club’s next head coach.
  • Current Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, a former international player (who had a 13-game NBA cameo) known particularly for his skills as a shooting coach, has been on New Orleans’ bench since 2010. Will Guillory of The Athletic wonders if the 50-year-old is ready to take the next step with the team.

Coaching Rumors: Wizards, Morrison, Cassell, Pelicans, Vaughn, Carlisle

We haven’t heard about many candidates linked to the Wizards‘ head coaching job since the team announced Scott Brooks wouldn’t be returning for the 2021/22 season. However, it sounds like Washington’s search is moving forward.

Celtics assistant Scott Morrison told Peter Yannopoulos of RDS (Twitter link) that he has interviewed for the Wizards’ head coaching job. Morrison also interviewed for the open position in Boston before the team decided to hire Ime Udoka. With Udoka likely to bring in some new assistants, Morrison’s future with the C’s is unclear.

Meanwhile, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on his Hoop Collective podcast that Sam Cassell and Wes Unseld Jr. are considered two of the leading candidates for the Wizards’ job (hat tip to RealGM). Cassell is currently an assistant with the Sixers, while Unseld – who has previously been mentioned as a contender for the Washington job – is a Nuggets assistant.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates and notes from around the NBA:

  • Windhorst also said on his latest Hoop Collective podcast that Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn has emerged as a legit contender for the Pelicans‘ head coaching vacancy. “I’m not saying he’s going to get (the) job, because Charles Lee on the Bucks‘ staff is also going to be a strong candidate,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “The word coming out of Chicago at the draft combine is that Jacque Vaughn, who is close to (Pelicans GM) Trajan Langdon… Jacque Vaughn is going to get a real serious look.” ESPN reported earlier in the week that both Vaughn and Lee were interviewing with New Orleans.
  • On that same Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon suggested that former Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle may have felt threatened in Dallas by assistant Jamahl Mosley‘s close relationship with Luka Doncic (hat tip to RealGM). Carlisle’s endorsement of Jason Kidd for the job could be viewed through that lens. “I think Rick understood the perception of how (the endorsement of Kidd) might impact who he didn’t endorse,” MacMahon said, adding of Carlisle and Mosley: “I don’t think those guys will necessarily send each other Christmas cards.”
  • Carlisle spoke to other teams with coaching openings before finalizing a deal with the Pacers, but Indiana was where the mutual interest was strongest, says J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (subscriber-only article). According to Michael, Carlisle and the Pacers didn’t even meet face-to-face, completing their four-year deal over the phone.

Pelicans To Interview Jacque Vaughn, Charles Lee

The Pelicans have received permission to interview Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn and Bucks assistant Charles Lee for their open head coaching position, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Vaughn is one of several Nets assistants receiving interest this offseason as a head coaching candidate, along with Mike D’Antoni and Ime Udoka. Vaughn served as the head coach of the Magic from 2012-15 and briefly assumed control of the Nets last summer following Kenny Atkinson‘s dismissal. He has otherwise worked as an assistant coach in San Antonio and Brooklyn since 2010.

Lee, meanwhile, began his coaching career as an assistant at Bucknell in 2012. Since 2014, he has been a Mike Budenholzer lieutenant, having worked under Budenholzer in Atlanta from 2014-18 and in Milwaukee from 2018 until the present. Lee has also been mentioned as a potential head coaching candidate for Boston and Orlando this month.

The Pelicans, who are seeking a replacement for Stan Van Gundy, are also expected to consider some in-house options, including assistant coach Fred Vinson. Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, and Udoka are the other external candidates who have been cited as possible targets for New Orleans, though it’s unclear if any of them will interview for the job.

Bucks Notes: Tucker, Lopez, Antetokounmpo, Coaching Staff

During his years with the Rockets, P.J. Tucker was never able to get past Kevin Durant‘s Warriors teams in the playoffs, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The Bucks acquired Tucker at the trade deadline to match up with elite scorers like Durant, and he finally prevailed over his long-time rival in Milwaukee’s Game 7 victory Saturday night.

The Bucks used several players on Durant during the series, but the primary job belonged to Tucker, his friend and fellow Texas alum. Durant had another incredible performance Saturday with 48 points in 53 minutes, but he air-balled a shot at the end that could have sent the game to a second overtime.

“It’s painful. I’m hurting. That was a battle every single night,” Tucker said. “To be able to finally get over the hump is pretty nice.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Brook Lopez was determined to make up for a mental error he committed late in the fourth quarter, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Lopez lost track of the shot clock with 8.1 seconds remaining, resulting in a turnover that gave the Nets a chance to tie the game. He responded by blocking a layup attempt by Durant with a minute left in overtime. “After that (shot clock violation) happened, I just took it upon myself,” Lopez said. “I told my teammates, ‘I made a mistake, but let’s go get this.’ I’m gonna fix this, we’re gonna fix this and so it happened, but it was great to see how resilient we were.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is making his second trip to the conference finals, wants to make sure his teammates stay focused on the challenge ahead. After Saturday’s win, he wrote an 8 in the locker room, which is how many more wins the Bucks need to capture a championship, per Marc Berman of The New York Post“It’s a great feeling,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “I try not to get too high or low. I got emotional a little bit out there. The team really tried their best. Just being able to come to New York and were 0 for 5 here and in Game 7 and everyone’s anxious and nervous and able to execute and trust each other. It was big time. I’m really happy for this team. We’re halfway through. I want everyone to cherish this moment.’’
  • Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee have been rumored for head coaching opportunities around the league, and Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer believes they’re ready, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. “They’re incredible coaches,” he said.

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Carlisle, Mavericks, Celtics

The Magic have requested permission to interview three assistants with no previous NBA head coaching experience, sources tell Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The requests involve Suns assistant Willie Green, Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Nets assistant Ime Udoka.

Orlando may be seeking a younger coach to oversee its rebuilding process after moving many of its veteran players at this year’s trade deadline. Former head coach Steve Clifford reportedly decided to part ways with the team because he didn’t want to commit to a rebuilding situation.

Green, 39, came to Phoenix in 2019 when Monty Williams was hired as head coach. He also served as an assistant coach with the Warriors and finished out his 12-year NBA career with the Magic in 2014/15.

Lee, 36, has been an assistant for seven seasons, working under Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks and Bucks. He has also been mentioned as a candidate for head coaching vacancies in New Orleans, Boston and possibly Milwaukee if the organization decides not to bring back Budenholzer.

Udoka, 43, has been a candidate for several openings in recent years. He is in his first season with Brooklyn after previously serving as an assistant with the Sixers and Spurs. Robbins notes that the Magic interviewed Udoka after Frank Vogel was fired in 2018, but Clifford was chosen for the job.

Orlando has already sought permission to interview Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr.

Robbins speculates that Rick Carlisle, who resigned as Mavericks coach on Thursday, could be another name to watch because he and general manager John Hammond spent two years together in Detroit. However, Carlisle is expected to receive offers from teams that are ready to be competitive right away.

There’s more on the NBA’s coaching search:

  • Carlisle could be the Bucks‘ top candidate if they fall short in the playoffs and decide to replace Budenholzer, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to Real GM). MacMahon also cites rumors about Carlisle returning to the Pacers, where he coached from 2003-07, and speculates that he never would have left Dallas unless he was sure that another opportunity was awaiting.
  • On the same podcast, MacMahon named Jamahl MosleyTerry Stotts and Kidd as three likely candidates to replace Carlisle with the Mavericks. Mosley, who is also a candidate for other openings, has been an assistant in Dallas since 2014. Stotts served as an assistant to Carlisle with the Mavs before the Trail Blazers hired him as head coach.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic considers the Celtics‘ job the best one available in his coaching vacancy power rankings. He names Carlisle as the best choice for Boston.

Pelicans Part Ways With Stan Van Gundy

11:08am: The Pelicans have officially announced Van Gundy’s exit, stating in a press release that the two sides mutually agreed to part ways.

“On behalf of Mrs. Gayle Benson and the Pelicans organization, I would like to thank Stan for the integrity and professionalism that he demonstrated during his time in New Orleans, as well as the commitment and work ethic he brought to our team,” Griffin said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision as I have tremendous respect for Stan both personally and professionally, but we agreed it is in the best interest of our team to move forward in a different direction. We wish Stan, Kim and their family all the best in the future.”

9:57am: Stan Van Gundy will not return to the Pelicans for the 2021/22 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN, who report (via Twitter) that Van Gundy is out after just one year as New Orleans’ head coach.

Van Gundy and Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin have met regularly since the end of the regular season to discuss the team’s future, and a divorce between the team and its coach began to feel like an inevitable outcome around the organization, tweets Wojnarowski.

Van Gundy, who previously coached the Heat, Magic, and Pistons, spent a couple years as an NBA analyst from 2018-20 before returning to the head coaching ranks in 2020, when he was hired by the Pelicans. He had a disappointing season in New Orleans, however — a team that entered the year with playoff aspirations finished with a 31-41 (.431) record, missing the play-in tournament.

Replacing Alvin Gentry on the Pelicans’ sidelines, Van Gundy emphasized improving the team’s defense, but failed to do so, writes Christian Clark of New Orleans ranked 23rd in points allowed per 100 possessions, two spots worse than in 2019/20. The Pels also had trouble closing out games, losing 14 times when they held a double-digit lead.

Clark writes that Van Gundy struggled to connect with many of the Pelicans’ young players, who didn’t adapt well to the drastic shift from Gentry’s coaching style to Van Gundy’s. Sources tell that Van Gundy’s relationship with star forward Brandon Ingram was “strained” for much of the season.

Van Gundy joins Nate Bjorkgren, formerly of the Pacers, as the head coaches who were let go this spring after just one year on the job.

The fifth team to launch a head coaching search since the regular season ended, the Pelicans are expected to look both inside and outside of the organization as they seek Van Gundy’s replacement.

Several reporters – including Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Will Guillory of The Athletic, and Marc Stein of The New York Times (all Twitter links) – say that current Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon is a strong contender for the position, while O’Connor also identifies Fred Vinson as a candidate.

As for external candidates, Wojnarowski names Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, and Nets assistants Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka as possibilities, noting that the Pelicans considered some of those coaches a year ago before hiring Van Gundy.

Van Gundy, meanwhile, could receive some consideration from the other four teams with head coaching openings, but may prefer to step away again after a trying season. A return to broadcasting is one possibility for the veteran coach.