The New Orleans Pelicans officially named Willie Green as their next head coach Thursday.
Green is coming off a stint as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns, who just made a run to the NBA Finals, which delayed the timing of the Pelicans’ announcement.
“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,” Pelicans governor Gayle Benson said in a statement. “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.”
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called Green, a 12-year NBA veterans one of the “most respected assistant coaches in the NBA.”
“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,” Griffin said in a statement.
Green spent three seasons as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors before joining Phoenix.
“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,” Green said. “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.”
As a player, Green made the playoffs in seven of his 12 seasons including the lone year in New Orleans (2010-11), one of just seven playoff trips the team has made in franchise history.
That season, Green made it on a team coached by Monty Williams and led by point guard Chris Paul. Now the Pelicans are hiring Green away from a Suns team led by Williams and Paul.
Green replaces Stan Van Gundy, who mutually agreed to leave the Pelicans after just one season. The Pelicans went 31-41 last season, a disappointing result after the season started with playoff aspirations. In the end, New Orleans didn’t even make the Western Conference play-in.
At 39, Green becomes the third-youngest coach in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault and Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins.