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Wizards announce Wes Unseld Jr. as next head coach

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To figure out their future, the Washington Wizards are turning to a familiar name from their past.

The Wizards announced Saturday that they've hired Wes Unseld Jr. as their next head coach.

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Team general manager Tommy Sheppard praised Unseld's "strong record as an in-game tactician along with his attention to detail on both sides of the ball" as traits that set Unseld apart during interviews. 

Unseld was rumored to be on the Wizards' radar the past few days. On Friday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the team offered Unseld a deal. The following day, Wojnarowski said Unseld accepted a four-year deal to coach the team. 

The team confirmed Unseld agreed to the deal, though did not announce the length of Unseld's contract in its press release announcing the signing. 

Unseld has been an assistant under Michael Malone with the Nuggets since 2015. Before that, he worked as an assistant for the Orlando Magic, Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards, getting his start with the team as a scout out of college.

Of course, it's not Unseld's resume that's going to draw attention to his hire. Unseld's father and namesake, Wes Unseld Sr., remains the Wizards' all-time leader in games, minutes played and rebounds and starred on the franchise's lone championship team in 1978.

Inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988, Unseld went on to work as a vice president, head coach and general manager for the Wizards.

Can Wizards take next step with Wes Unseld Jr.?

Unseld is now set to enter a situation that could go a number of ways in the next few years.

The Wizards made their first playoffs in three years this season, finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference and surviving the play-in tournament. While that sounds like progress, very real questions remain if the Wizards can make the next step to contending in the East with their current core.

The team still has one of the best players in basketball with Bradley Beal, who averaged 31.3 points per game last season, and did its best to give him a co-star with the Russell Westbrook trade, but there's not a ton of proven talent behind that star backcourt. 

Davis Bertans' big contract extension already looks like an overpay, while Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija are all intriguing talents with no guarantee of becoming viable starters for a contending team. It will be Unseld's job to make that mix of young and older talent work, but he may only get so much time if the team's front office decides trading Beal is its best chance at contending in the future.

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