Following a season that came with some incredible highs and horrible lows the Washington Wizards are left with no shortage of questions regarding nearly every aspect of the franchise. Not the least of which is the problem of their head coaching situation.
Current head coach Wes Unseld Jr does have a few things in his favor that have helped him keep his job. He is the son of the greatest player in franchise history: Wes Unseld who also served time as the head coach and general manager of the team before he retired from basketball completely. He has a friendship with owner Ted Leonsis who has publicly vouched for him when asked about their disastrous season. He even has a storied history as an assistant coach having spent time with the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and the Washington Wizards in that role.
However, despite everything going in his favor and his reputation as a defensive genius who has a keen eye for player development, he has done almost nothing to help the Wizards improve. He has yet to help lead the team to the playoffs or even close to that mark in his two years as head coach nor has there been any notable player development during that time as the young players remain stuck behind other stars.
Wes Unseld Jr should still remain with the franchise despite his coaching failure
Even with back-to-back 35-47 seasons, Unseld Jr still means a lot to the franchise. He grew up with the Wizards, he lived almost all of his life in DC, and he has invested time in the city. Going back to his relationship with Ted Leonsis, it seems unlikely that the Wizards would ever fire Unseld Jr.
Instead, it may be a good idea to take a page out of the book of Troy Weaver, general manager of the Detroit Pistons. He realized that Dwane Casey was not the coach that his team needed but also knew that he cared for the franchise and has plenty of knowledge that could be valuable to the team.
Due to this, Weaver opted to promote Casey to a front office role. This allowed the Pistons to retain his knowledge and experience while also having the ability to find a coach who better fits what the team needs.
This is the direction the Washington Wizards should go in. Find a role in the front office that he could fit such as head of the scouting department and move him there. This would allow the Wiz to upgrade their coaching while keeping the Unseld legacy in DC.
Who should replace Unseld Jr in this scenario?
While Ime Udoka may no longer be available following his agreement with the Houston Rockets, the coaches still available this year are great. More still could become available as the playoffs progress.
There are notable championship coaches that run a system that could benefit the Wizards greatly that are currently without a team. First is Nick Nurse who recently went separate ways with the Toronto Raptors. Second is Frank Vogel who became the scapegoat following back-to-back rough seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. They are also likely to be joined by Mike Budenholzer who is coming off of one of the most embarrassing first round exits in NBA history.
There are plenty of other coaches around the league that could take the helm of the team. The main priority should be finding a coach who has a strong coaching philosophy that will lead to winning. We just saw the Sacramento Kings find a diamond in Mike Brown who was an assistant coach for years before taking his talents to California’s state capitol.
While the Washington Wizards aren’t going to rush this decision, it is one that may be made by the new general manager once they take over. However, finding a new head coach to lead the team next season.