- Phoenix Suns’ assistant Willie Green is expected to be the next head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.
- While a deal is not yet done reports suggest that it is just a matter of time.
- Former New Orleans head coach Stan Van Gundy was let go in mid-June after one season at the helm.
There are numerous reports suggesting that Phoenix Suns’ assistant Willie Green will be hired as the new head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. There’s a good chance that any announcement will be delayed until after the NBA Finals where Green’s Phoenix Suns are up 2-1 on the Milwaukee Bucks. Game 4 is set for Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
Over the weekend, a number of media outlets including ESPN and WDSU in New Orleans reported that Green had become the ‘frontrunner’ foir the Pelicans’ coaching vacancy. On Monday, revised updates indicated that the two sides were working toward a deal. Earlier today, WDSU’s Fletcher Mackel gave a Twitter update about Green’s status indicating that there is ‘plenty of mutual interest’ and that ‘Willie wants the New Orleans job and they want him’:
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported a similar story in his Tuesday Twitter updates:
Green is a veteran of a dozen years in the NBA playing with five different franchises. He is a graduate of Detroit’s Cooley High School and played college ball at Detroit Mercy. He was selected in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics who immediately traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Green would spend the most productive years of his career in Philadelphia where he was a valued reserve. In 2010, he was traded to the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans) with forward Jason Smith as Darius Songalia and Craig Brackins headed to Philly. After one season in New Orleans, Green would finish his NBA playing career in stints with the Atlanta Hawks (2011-2012), the Los Angeles Clippers (2012-2014) and Orlando Magic (2014-2015).
After retirement as an active player, Green moved into coaching. In 2016, he was hired by the Golden State Warriors as an assistant and was part of the staff during the team’s 2017 and 2018 NBA Championships. In June 2019, he was hired by the Phoenix Suns. His stock around the league has been on the rise throughout his coaching career and he’s highly regarded by the NBA media, coaches, players and fans.
Sixers beat writer Steve Lippman recounted a quote about Green from Andre Iguodala’s book Sixth Man:
“He learned the game from Kevin Ollie and I learned a lot of it from him. Willie Green was very clear about the things you need to do to stay in the NBA. At six-three, he was in a tough spot as an undersized shooting guard. To compensate, he played hard every day, every practice, every game. If he had to break your leg to get minutes, he would. But he did it respectfully, as funny as it sounds. He would tell you, ‘I’m going at you today…sorry man, I gotta eat.’ It didn’t matter that he was your teammate, Willie would straight up take your lunch money.”
If he can impart this kind of toughness and work ethic on the young Pelicans’ roster it might be exactly what they need. Green also received a glowing endorsement from Phoenix Suns’ point guard Chris Paul:
“I know he deserves it. He’ll be the most humble, prepared coach you’ve ever seen in your life. I can’t even imagine right now playing and him being a coach, but I’m unbelievably happy for the opportunity that he may get. (Happy) for Chauncey, for J-Kidd, for Jamahl Mosley, all these coaches that’s getting an opportunity.”
Suns’ beat writer Duane Rankin had a Tweet with more praise of Greene from Paul:
Green would be the third youngest head coach in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault (35) and Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins.