After a weekslong search, the Wizards plan to offer Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. their head coaching job, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. The news was first reported by WUSA-9.
From here, the two sides will begin contract negotations. Barring something unforeseen, a deal should be reached sometime this weekend.
Unseld Jr. has been with Denver for six seasons, most recently as the associate head coach on Michael Malone's staff. Joining the Wizards will be a homecoming for Unseld Jr., who began his NBA assistant coaching career with the franchise in 2005. He previously served as an advance scout for the team.
Unseld Jr. is also from Maryland and played college basketball at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Before coaching the Nuggets, he spent time with the Warriors and Magic.
Unseld Jr. has deep ties to the organization as the son of Wes Unseld Sr., the Hall of Fame player who passed away last year. Unseld Sr. is the most decorated player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history, having won an MVP award and as the Finals MVP for their lone championship in 1978.
Unseld Sr. was also a head coach and front office executive for the Wizards. He coached them from 1987 to 1994, leading them to the playoffs once in 1988.
Due to the connections between Unseld Jr. and the franchise, and his impressive resume regardless of them, he had long been tied to the organization as a potential future head coach. He was the favorite going into the process.
The Wizards were among several teams to interview Unseld Jr. for their head coach position. He spoke to the Magic this offseason and had interviewed with other teams in the past. This would be the first time the Wizards have hired a first-time head coach on a permanent basis since Leonard Hamilton in 2000.
Unseld Jr. is known for being a sharp defensive mind and helped the Nuggets through their unexpected rise to perennial contenders. They were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA before the 2018-19 season when they jumped up to 10th in defensive rating. Last year, they ranked 12th.
The Nuggets in recent years have made a habit out of developing less-heralded draft picks into stars. Nikola Jokic went from a second round pick to the league's MVP. Michael Porter Jr. was picked 14th overall and now looks like one of the NBA's most talented young players. Even Jamal Murray has exceeded expectations.
Unseld Jr. emerged from a crowded field of NBA assistant coaches that included Darvin Ham and Charles Lee of the Milwaukee Bucks making it into the final round. Part of why the search took so long is that Ham and Lee made strong impressions in the interview process, NBC Sports Washington was told. If it weren't for that, Unseld Jr. likely would have been offered the job earlier.
Defense and player development are two areas the Wizards would like to continue improving in and Unseld Jr. has a track record suggesting he can help. Combine that with all the connections he has to the franchise and city and it's no surprise the Wizards have chosen him to be their next head coach.