Washington Wizards: Patient coaching search shows a focus on the future

Washington Wizards Wes Unseld Jr. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Wes Unseld Jr. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards were once one of seven NBA teams searching for a head coach. Now, they are one of three. And with the Orlando Magic closing in on Jamahl Mosley, they could soon join the New Orleans Pelicans as the only two teams still in the market for a head coach.

The patience isn’t surprising. GM Tommy Sheppard made it clear after the Wizards parted ways with Scott Brooks that they were in no hurry to name his successor. However, as names that were once associated with the Wizards job get scooped up, is patience becoming a problem? Mosley was reportedly set to have a second interview with the Wizards on Friday, but that was before reports of he and the Magic broke.

While the Pacers jumped to add a championship pedigree coach in Rick Carlisle, who joined Indiana just seven days after leaving the Dallas Mavericks, the Wizards stayed patient. While the Mavericks and Trail Blazers made flashy yet controversial hires, the Wizards stayed patient.

It might feel like it’s time to panic. The season ended over a month ago. The Brooks decision was officiall more than three weeks ago, and while the Wizards are still looking for his replacement, Brooks is reportedly joining the coaching staff in Portland. However, the patience we’ve seen in the coaching search, plus the candidates that are still in the mix, suggests that the Wizards are taking the long view with this hire. And that’s not a problem. Not at all.

By showing patience throughout their head coaching search, the Washington Wizards have shown that their focus is on the future.

The Wizards didn’t jump at a “win-now” coach with a proven record of success, like Carlisle or Kenny Atkinson, who is on his way from being an assistant with the Clippers to an assistant with the Warriors. Instead, they seem interested in giving someone their first crack at a head coaching gig at the NBA level.

This week, Wes Unseld Jr, Charles Lee, Darvin Ham, Ronald Nored, and Kevin Young have all been linked to second-round interviews with the Wizards, with Unseld reportedly being the front runner. All of those candidates are current assistant coaches. None of them have head coaching experience in the NBA.

Going with an up-and-coming coach that’s yet to prove themself may seem like the opposite of what Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal need. After last season’s playoff birth, there’s pressure to make an “all-in” move for the backcourt stars. But the reality is, this Wizards team is a young one. Bringing in an up-and-coming coach matches the timeline of this up-and-coming team. Per HoopsHype, there are ten guys already signed to either a guaranteed or non-guaranteed contract for next season. Six of them are 25 years old or younger.

  • Deni Avdija, 20 years old
  • Daniel Gafford, 22 years old
  • Thomas Bryant, 23 years old
  • Rui Hachimura, 23 years old
  • Caleb Homesley, 24 years old
  • Chandler Hutchison, 25 years old

There’s a lot to be excited about with this Wizards team, even without a head coach at the moment: Mr. Triple-Double is in DC; Bradley Beal, an All-NBAer and Olympian, is leveling up season after season. But the patience that the Wizards have displayed throughout this coaching search shows that they are looking just as much to the future as they are at the present. They certainly have a window of opportunity to be a competitive playoff team right now with Westbrook and Beal. However, the Wizards seem to have recognized that rushing in with a strictly “win-now” coach isn’t the way to go when the future looks so bright, especially if they can retain Beal past his player option for the 2022-23 season.

This is not to say the Wizards can’t make a big splash with a first-year head coach next season.  Two teams that were in the Conference Finals this season  — the LA Clippers and Atlanta Hawks — were both there with coaches in the midst of their first season in their new head-coaching home. Plus, each of the candidates still in the running for the Wizards job has a head-coach-worthy resume and deserves at least a chance to take this team to new heights. But it is to say that if the Wizards don’t quickly emerge as a contender in the East, they will have a head coach that’s ready to build for the future from the ground up.

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