Fifty-three years ago, basketball phenom Wes Unseld was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets with the second overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft. As the franchise moved from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., Unseld endeared himself to local fans as he earned an MVP award, appeared in five NBA All-Star Games and led the team to an NBA championship. After years of leading the team on the court, he became the head coach of the Wizards from 1987 until 1994. Twenty-seven years have passed since Unseld coached his final game and his son, Wes Unseld Jr., is looking to carry on the family's legacy as the next head coach of the Wizards.
"Becoming a head coach in the NBA is a goal that I have pursued my entire adult life and to have that dream realized by coming full circle back to Washington is truly special. I look forward to representing the DMV [Washington, D.C. metropolitan area], connecting with our fans and establishing a new standard for Wizards basketball," Unseld Jr. said after stepping into his first NBA head coaching role.
Unseld Jr.'s new position is not only a win for the nation's capital and the Unseld family, but it is also the latest step in a promising trend. Over the last few months, seven NBA franchises have hired Black head coaches. As a result, 13 NBA franchises will be led by Black head coaches during the upcoming season. Moreover, 15 of the league's 30 teams will be led by head coaches of color at the start of the 2021-2022 NBA season.
“The way I look at it is I just wanted everybody to have the same opportunities to get a job and I just think it’s important that African Americans, white, brown, it doesn’t matter, I just wish that every team would have a lengthy process so that guys would get the experience, that’s how I view it. I think when teams just pick a guy and not allow for younger coaches and African American coaches to at least go through the process, it’s hard, because we all need that experience so you can learn like, what I need to do, where my strengths are, where my weaknesses are."
Black coaches have proven their worth time and time again this season. At the start of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, only 4 of the 16 remaining NBA franchises were led by Black coaches. By the time the conference finals rolled around, 75% of the remaining teams were led by Black coaches. Not to mention, a Black head coach brought home coach of the year honors as well.
“I am encouraged by the recent progress,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver added.
“And, while we’re moving in the right direction, we must continue to work at it through programs like the Coaches Equality Initiative and by ensuring that our teams are looking at a broad and diverse pipeline of talent.”