The Washington Wizards are offering the franchise’s head-coaching job to Denver Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr., with a deal expected to be completed in the coming days, sources told ESPN.
A formal agreement will bring about a remarkable homecoming: Unseld’s late father, Wes Unseld, is the most important figure in franchise history: a Basketball Hall of Fame player, coach and executive with Washington.
Unseld completed two days of interviews in Washington on Friday, including with owner Ted Leonsis. Wizards management, including GM Tommy Sheppard, and Unseld’s agent, Brian Elfus, are expected to start contract talks on Saturday that the sides expect to result in a long-term deal, sources said.
Unseld will be the seventh African American 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 Mosley), Boston (Ime Udoka) and Dallas (Jason Kidd) hired African American coaches. Four of them — including Unseld, Mosley, Billups and Green — are assistants getting first-time opportunities as head coaches.
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. He 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. Unseld has been the Nuggets’ defensive coordinator, helping the franchise to significant improvement in that area.
Unseld replaces Scott 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 had assistant coaching positions with Golden State and Orlando. He was also a finalist for the Orlando 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 NBA Finals MVP in 1978 after leading Washington to its only NBA championship.