The Washington Wizards made a big move Thursday morning by firing head coach Wes Unseld Jr midway through the 2023-2024 season. The Wizards (7-36) currently sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and are currently riding a four-game losing streak.

Unseld Jr became the head coach of the Wizards during the summer of 2021. Washington under Unseld Jr compiled a record of 77-130 (.372) across two and half seasons in D.C. Since joining the Wizards, the team never finished better than 12th place in the eastern conference under Unseld Jr.

Why Unseld Jr is Out as Washington Head Coach

The move isn’t shocking considering the fact that the Wizards only have a better record than the lowly Pistons (5-39). Detroit currently holds the NBA record for most consecutive losses (27). Under Unseld Jr this season, Washington ranks dead-last in defense (124 points allowed per game) and last in rebounding (40.2 per game). Under Unseld Jr Washington was middle of the pack on offense (ranks 15th). Unfortunately, the lack of defensive efficiency was simply too much to overcome. Due to their subpar defense and rebounding, it resulted in a bevy of blown leads. Washington lost against the Raptors (23-point lead), against Charlotte (19-point lead), and New Orleans (15-point lead) this season just to name a few. The Wizards’ biggest home loss in team history occurred in 2022. Washington lost by 42 points to the Brooklyn Nets, 128-86.

Prior to being named the 25th head coach in Washington history, Unseld Jr served as an assistant coach and scout for Washington (’05-’11). Unseld Jr helped aid the Wizards to four consecutive playoff appearances from 2005-2008, respectively. His father, Wes Unseld Sr. is a franchise legend and basketball Hall of Famer as a player and served as a coach/executive for Washington (formerly known as the Bullets) from 1981-1994. Unseld Jr has deep ties with the organization, so it is not surprising to see him transition into a front office role.

“After several thoughtful conversations with Wes, we determined together that a change was needed for the benefit of the team”, said Monumental Basketball President Michael Winger in a statement regarding the Unseld Jr. firing. The firing needed to happen, it was only a matter of time. Aside from the passive defense and lack of rebounding, the team seemed lifeless and directionless under Unseld Jr.

Assistant Coach Brian Keefe Named Interim Head Coach

The Wizards named assistant coach (’23-’24) Brian Keefe to be the interim coach for the rest of the season. Keefe previously served as an assistant for the Oklahoma City Thunder (’07-’15), New York Knicks (’15-’16), Los Angeles Lakers (’16’-’19), and the Brooklyn Nets (’21-’23), respectively.

Washington already has plans in place for a brand new coach during the offseason. Can Keefe show some improvement for the Wizards during his first stint as a head coach for the rest of the season?

The Last Word on Wes Unseld Jr Firing

As mentioned prior, this move by the Wizards front office isn’t shocking. Washington wanted different results other than losing, which is what Unseld Jr. was dishing out frequently during his tenure. Washington is recognized as one of the worst franchises in the NBA and to break that losing culture, it’s time to find a proven coach that can steer the ship. Fortunately, the Wizards have  future draft assets and cap space to help improve their roster going forward.

Washington is fresh off a home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-107 on Wednesday night. Tonight, it welcomes the Utah Jazz in the Capital One Arena in Keefe’s first game as a head coach.

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