Wizards announce Wes Unseld Jr. as new head coach

As a player, the late Wes Unseld Sr. led Washington to an NBA championship, and now it is his son’s responsibility to guide the team back to glory.

Wes Unseld Jr., most recently associate head coach of the Denver Nuggets, is the new head coach of the Washington Wizards, the team announced Saturday.

He reportedly has signed a four-year contract and replaces Scott Brooks, who was not offered a new deal after five seasons.

“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,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard 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.”

The 49-year old Unseld Jr. grew up around the franchise. Born in 1972 before the team’s final season in Baltimore, Unseld Jr., starting at the age of 5, spent time in the Bullets locker room before games and would then be in the car with his father for the drive home.

Unseld Jr. watched his father lead the Bullets to the NBA title 1978 and then transition from a 14-year playing career into coaching and front office roles with the team. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 1997 where he played for the Blue Jays, Unseld Jr. was considering graduate school. Instead, he decided to go to work for his father, who was serving as general manager of the Wizards.

“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 “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.”

For eight years, Unseld Jr. paid his dues working in the Wizards personnel department and traveling the country as one of the team’s advance scouts.

In 2005, the Wizards promoted Unseld Jr. to be an assistant coach on Eddie Jordan’s staff.

After six seasons as a Wizards assistant, stops as an assistant with Golden State and Orlando followed before his most recent six-year run in Denver.

While with the Nuggets, Unseld Jr. earned high praise for his work on the defensive side of the ball. This past season, the Nuggets finished 11th in the NBA in points allowed per possession, even though the team’s players are not considered among the league’s best defenders.

Unseld Jr. takes over a Wizards team that is desperate to improve on defense. With Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook leading the way, offense is not an issue, but the Wizards ranked last in the NBA this past season in points allowed.

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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