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So far, four NBA teams have hired a new head coach since their seasons ended.
The Washington Wizards, on the other hand, have been fairly quiet since moving on from Scott Brooks.
That was true until Friday. With Ime Udoka, Rick Carlisle, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups – all of whom were among my initial candidates for the job in Washington – each agreeing to terms as head coaches with other teams, the Wizards have reportedly ramped up their search. Scott Morrison of the Boston Celtics has interviewed with Washington (first reported by Peter Yannopoulos of Réseau des sports in Canada), and Jamahl Mosley (pictured at right) of the Dallas Mavericks has also received an interview request (per Marc Stein of The New York Times).
As recently as Wednesday, Sports Betting Dime viewed Sam Cassell, Wes Unseld Jr. and Kenny Atkinson as the frontrunners for the Wizards.
Interestingly, their odds closely resemble my initial predictions. Their top four were my finalists, and the only coach they included that I did not was Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing, a heavy long shot for the job.
This, however, was prior to the release of the news regarding Morrison and Mosley. It’s not entirely clear how seriously they are being considered, but the fact that they have received interviews should not be cast aside.
Morrison has spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, following three years as the head coach of their D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He also has extensive coaching history in Canada, including as an assistant coach for the under-19 Canadian national team from 2012–16. He is the winningest coach in Red Claws history, and was named the D-League coach of the year in 2015. He interviewed for Boston’s job prior to Udoka being selected.
Mosley has considerably more NBA experience than Morrison. He worked in the player development department with the Denver Nuggets from 2005–07, after which he was an assistant coach for the Nuggets for four seasons. He was then an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2010–14 and with the Dallas Mavericks under Carlisle for the last seven seasons. He was Dallas’ defensive coordinator for his final three years in Dallas, where he has announced he will not return as a member of Kidd’s staff, and was credited with forming a better relationship with superstar Luka Doncic than Carlisle did. He’s interviewed for head coach positions previously, including the New York Knicks last year and the Celtics this year, and the Orlando Magic have also requested to interview him.
Fred Katz of The Athletic has noted that Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office place considerable value on G-League (formerly the D-League) head coaching experience, and Stein has reported that most people closely connected to the league believe Washington will hire an assistant coach to fill the vacancy at head coach – as opposed to a retread like Atkinson.
Even if they aren’t offered the top position, it’s certainly plausible that either Morrison or Mosley could be offered an assistant position by the new coach. That seems unlikely, though, as Brad Stevens (who Morrison worked alongside) is now Boston’s President of Basketball Operations and may want to keep him. Mosley, on the other hand, is a hot commodity, and he would most likely join Carlisle’s staff in Indiana if he wasn’t named as someone’s head coach.
As far as the perceived top candidates go, very little has been confirmed. Mike Singer of the Denver Post stated that Unseld would be a frontrunner for Washington’s job as soon as it opened up, but there have been no official updates stating whether he has/will interview. The only news regarding the position – aside from Morrison and Mosley – is that Cassell has expressed interest in the job (per Wizards reporter Quinton Mayo), and that Washington assistant Robert Pack is a dark horse (according to Chris Crouse of FortyEightMinutes) – although he could easily return as an assistant.
Sheppard has consistently stated that he wants the hiring process to be thorough and extensive, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that no hire has been made yet. It’s also possible that some of the top candidates are awaiting the fate of Mike Budenholzer – there is a belief that he may be on the hot seat if he doesn’t lead the Milwaukee Bucks to victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
As it stands, the Wizards are currently competing with the Magic and New Orleans Pelicans in the race for a head coach. Washington, however, is still very early in the interview process, and they’ll likely speak with quite a few more coaches before making a decision. They may very well be the last team to make a hire.