Inside the Wizards' plans to build a coaching candidate slate


In his press conference on Wednesday to discuss the departure of Scott Brooks and the beginning of the search to replace him, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard used words like "diverse" and "inclusive" to describe the process of finding their next head coach. Though he spoke for nearly 40 minutes, he did not go into detail about what he meant.

According to someone familiar with their plans, women and coaches from the international ranks are expected to be on the discussion list.

The plan to look at making history with the first female head coach in the NBA is not unique to the Wizards.

Though the Wizards are still putting their initial list of candidates together, several women have been mentioned for other vacancies like Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Pelicans assistant Theresa Witherspoon, Duke head coach Kara Lawson and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.

Hammon has interviewed for several openings in recent years, but there has never been a woman hired as head coach of an NBA team. Just this past season, Hammon became the first woman to serve as head coach in a single NBA game.

The international angle is not surprising given Sheppard's background. He's long been a frequent flyer scouting players for the Wizards and has a history of involvement in the global game. That has been seen in his construction of the Wizards' roster, which at the start of this season featured the most international players of any NBA team.


Each of Sheppard's two first-round picks since taking over as GM have been international players; Rui Hachimura of Japan and Deni Avdija of Israel. Last offseason, the Wizards signed Anthony Gill away from the EuroLeague.

Hiring coaches from international leagues, however, is not common in the NBA. David Blatt left the EuroLeague to coach the Cavaliers in 2014, but he was born and raised in America. Mike D'Antoni also had longstanding international ties before coaching in the NBA, but is from the U.S. Igor Kokoskov of Serbia was hired to coach the Suns in 2018, but had been in the NBA for two decades as an assistant.

The Wizards expect to finalize a list of names and then begin with introductory phone calls to candidates. That will lead to more formal interviews either over Zoom or conducted in person at the NBA Draft Combine, set for next week in Chicago. The combine is one of the league's best networking events.

The annual showcase will begin on June 21, this Monday, and last a week. The Wizards will be there scouting players for the draft, but should also be able to make some significant progress in their coaching search.