After parting ways with Scott Brooks earlier this month after five seasons with the franchise, the Washington Wizards were the last team standing when it came to hiring a new head coach. Now, they've found their man. Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. has officially been named as Washington's next coach, the team announced on Saturday. His deal with the team is for four years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
"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."
Milwaukee Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee were also finalists for the position, but it appears as though Washington has decided on Unseld. All three coaches have been in contention for other head-coaching positions around the league. Unseld will now inherit a Wizards roster that has pressure to win right now with star veterans Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.
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Unseld has connections to the Wizards as he previously spent 13 seasons with the organization, most of which was spent as an assistant coach in charge of player development. In addition, his father, the late Wes Unseld, is arguably the most important person in franchise history. He spent 13 seasons with the team as a player, winning MVP in 1969 and leading the then-Bullets to their only title in 1978. Later on, he spent time as the team's head coach and worked in the front office.
Most recently, Unseld spent the past six seasons coaching under Mike Malone and has been responsible for leading the team's defensive scheme. He was elevated to associate head coach this season, after five years as an assistant. He's also spent time as an assistant with the Orlando Magic and Golden State Warriors.
By honing in on an assistant to fill the head-coaching vacancy in Washington, it signals that the Wizards are willing to give a first-time head coach a shot to help rebuild this team into consistent playoff contenders. However, there's pressure in D.C. to be more than just a playoff team as Beal's future with the team has been a ticking clock for the past few years. There will be high expectations placed on Unseld's shoulders and he will be expected to win right away with the roster the Wizards already have.