Wizards

Unseld Out as Wizards Coach, Keefe Named Interim

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The Washington Wizards parted ways with Wes Unseld Jr. as their head coach on Thursday morning, opting to relocate him to a front-office advisory role.

They’ll promote former top assistant Brian Keefe to the role of interim head coach while they search for a long-term replacement in the offseason, giving Keefe the reins for the remainder of the 2024 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first on the case.

Monumental President Michael Winger issued a release soon after the news broke, thanking Unseld for his contributions to the team before stating the need to move on. 

“After several thoughtful conversations with Wes, we determined together that a change was needed for the benefit of the team,” Winger said, per the team’s statement.

Coach Unseld, the son of Baltimore Bullets legend Wes Unseld, spent the late 2000s and all of the 2010s bouncing around as an assistant coach. He worked his way up to the lead assistant role in Denver from 2015-2021 and made his name specializing in defense and development. 

He took the Washington job in 2021 following Scott Brooks’ exit and accumulated a record of 77-130 across two-and-a-half seasons with the Wizards, departing this iteration of the team at 7-36.

Despite his promise as someone who could inspire a defensive identity within the then-middling Wizards, he never escaped a bottom-10 defensive rating for a season. He peaked at No. 21 in 2022-23, but the team had the second-worst stopping ability of anyone entering Thursday.

The Wizards never cracked the playoffs during his tenure, and their chances are slim at best under new interim Keefe.

He, like Winger and General Manager Will Dawkins, has ties to the Oklahoma City Thunder, serving as their defensive coordinator in 2010. He made some stops with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers before serving there one more time in 2019, where he was called in to shape the defense up once again. Kevin Durant has been quoted saying “he wouldn’t take any credit for it, but he taught me everything I know.”

Keefe is also supported by the new front office, which now includes Unseld. Keefe was installed just this past summer after the dismissal of former General Manager Tommy Sheppard, and will hopefully provide some answers to Washington’s defensive woes while keeping the youth development initiative chugging along.

About Henry J. Brown

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