Pelicans hire Suns assistant Willie Green as new head coach

·2-min read

The New Orleans Pelicans have their new coach. The Pels announced on Thursday that they are hiring former player and current Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green as their new head coach. 

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“Willie has established himself as one of the most respected assistant coaches in the NBA. In large part, this is due to a tireless work ethic and authenticity of character,” said David Griffin, the Pelicans' executive vice president for basketball operations. “He brings a vast amount of basketball knowledge and experience to our team as both a coach and former player, along with exceptional leadership qualities and an innate ability to connect with players, staff and fans alike. We could not be more excited to welcome Willie and his family to New Orleans.”

Green is replacing Stan Van Gundy, who surprisingly parted ways with the Pelicans in June after just one season. At just 39 years old, Green will be the third-youngest head coach in the NBA, behind 35-year-old Mark Daigneault, who coaches the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 36-year-old Taylor Jenkins, who coaches the Memphis Grizzlies.

A 12-year NBA veteran, Green made seven trips to the playoffs over his career. He even did it once for the Pelicans (who were then called the Hornets), with whom he played for just one season. It was one of just a handful of playoff appearances the Pelicans have made in their 19-year history. 

Phoenix Suns assistant coach Willie Green in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 116-104. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Willie Green, most recently an assistant coach with the Suns, will be the new head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Green has been an assistant coach for two championship teams and nearly added a third to his resume this season with the Suns, who lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals on Tuesday. The Golden State Warriors hired him as an assistant in 2016, a year after playing his last game in the NBA. They won a championship at the end of Green's first season, and won another one in 2018. He was hired by Monty Williams to join the Suns' coaching staff before the start of the 2019 season.

Green's work is cut out for him with the Pels. Their roster, with Zion Williamson, was a disappointment in 2020-21, underperforming and failing to even make the end-of-season play-in tournament. He'll be charged with changing the direction of the team and leading it to its first playoff appearance since 2018.

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