Pelicans name Willie Green as new head coach

Sports

FILE – Phoenix Suns assistant coach Willie Green is shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Denver, in this Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, file photo. A person familiar with the situation says the New Orleans Pelicans are negotiating with Suns assistant Willie Green about taking over as head coach but no deal is in place and discussions could extend beyond the NBA Finals. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing and the Pelicans have not publicly discussed coaching candidates. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans have named Willie Green the team’s new head coach.

The announcement came on Thursday, by Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin.

“I want to thank Mrs. Benson, David Griffin, and the entire Pelicans organization for having faith in me to lead this talented group of players moving forward,” said Green. “It’s a blessing and an honor to get this opportunity in a special place like New Orleans. I look forward to getting to work and immersing myself and my family into the local community.”

Green becomes the eighth head coach in franchise history.

“After an extensive and collaborative search, Willie stood out among an impressive group of candidates as the best person to lead our team moving forward,” said Pelicans Governor Gayle Benson. “We are very happy to welcome Willie as our new head coach and we look forward to working with him to guide our team on the court as we work towards bringing a championship to New Orleans.”

“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 Griffin. “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 joins the Pelicans after spending the previous two seasons (2019-21) as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns. As a part of head coach Monty Williams’ staff, Green helped guide the 2021 Western Conference Champions to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. As the Suns’ defensive coordinator, Phoenix finished the regular season with the NBA’s sixth-best defensive rating. He also served as the Phoenix’s head coach for NBA Summer League in 2019, leading the Suns to a 3-1 record in Las Vegas.

Prior to joining Phoenix, Green spent three seasons (2016-19) as assistant coach/player development for the Golden State Warriors. While on head coach Steve Kerr’s staff, Green helped the Warriors win back-to-back NBA Championships in 2017 and 2018 before returning to the NBA Finals in 2019. He also served as the Warriors’ head coach for NBA Summer League in 2018, leading Golden State to the California Classic’s only 3-0 record.

Green, a 12-year NBA veteran as a player, was selected with the 41st overall pick by Seattle in the 2003 NBA Draft. He appeared in 731 regular-season games (297 starts) with Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, the LA Clippers, and Orlando from 2003-15, and qualified for the playoffs seven times in his 12 seasons.

A native of Detroit, Green was a four-year standout at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he won Horizon League Player of the Year as a senior in 2003 and helped the Titans to two NIT appearances in 2001 and 2002, including a trip to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in 2001. Green remains fifth in program history in career points scored.

{Press release courtesy of the New Orleans Pelicans}

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