Unseld Jr. returns to Wizards as head coach

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Wes Unseld Jr. has agreed to a four-year contract to be the next head coach of the Washington Wizards, sources told ESPN.

The Wizards formally announced the hiring on Saturday. Unseld is expected to be introduced as the head coach in a news conference Monday.

Washington officials completed an agreement with the Denver Nuggets associate head coach and his agent, Brian Elfus, on Saturday on a long-term deal to replace Scott Brooks.

“Wes is one of the most highly-regarded assistant coaches in the NBA and clearly separated himself from the large and diverse group of candidates we considered,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “His strong record as an in-game tactician along with his attention to detail on both sides of the ball combined with his reputation for player development and outstanding character during his 20+ years of coaching left no doubt that he was the best choice to guide our team to the next level.”

Unseld was raised in the Wizards organization, working for 14 years in scouting and coaching roles before moving on to become one of the league’s rising star assistant coaches.

His return to Washington punctuates a remarkable homecoming. His late father, Wes Unseld Sr., is the most important figure in franchise history as a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame player, coach and executive with Washington.

Unseld Jr. completed two days of interviews in Washington, D.C., on Friday, including with owner Ted Leonsis, and received an offer later in the day to become the franchise’s next head coach, sources said.

“I want to thank Tommy and Mr. Leonsis for the opportunity to lead this talented team both on and off the court and to continue moving the franchise in a positive direction,” Unseld Jr. said in a statement. “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. I look forward to representing the DMV, connecting with our fans and establishing a new standard for Wizards basketball.”

He will be the seventh African American head coach hired out of eight openings this offseason in the NBA. New Orleans is finalizing an agreement with Suns assistant Willie Green, and Portland (Chauncey Billups), Atlanta (Nate McMillan), Orlando (Jamahl Mosely), Boston (Ime Udoka) and Dallas (Jason Kidd) hired African American coaches. Four of them — including Unseld Jr., Mosely, Billups and Green — are former assistants getting first-time opportunities as head coaches.

Unseld Jr. spent the past six seasons with the Nuggets, where he played a part in one of the league’s most impressive constructions of a championship contender. He helped the franchise to significant improvement as the team’s defensive coordinator.

He replaces Brooks, who was let go after five seasons as head coach. The Wizards reached the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing in five games to No. 1 seed Philadelphia. The Wizards cornerstone star, Bradley Beal, has one year left on his contract. Before joining the Nuggets, Unseld Jr. had assistant coaching jobs with Golden State and Orlando. He was also a finalist for the Magic job that went to Mosley last week.

Wes Unseld Sr. died a year ago. He was the NBA’s MVP in 1969, and won the 1978 NBA Finals MVP in leading Washington to its only NBA championship.



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