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Pelicans tab Willie Green as head coach in hopes to maximize Zion Williamson, young roster

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The New Orleans Pelicans made a move that they hope will ensure success for Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the rest of their young roster. The Pelicans officially hired Willie Green as head coach after having assistant-coaching stints with the Phoenix Suns (2019-2021) and the Golden State Warriors (2016-19).

“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,” Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said in a statement. “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.”

Before it was official that the Pelicans replaced Green with Stan Van Gundy as head coach, the Suns honored Green at the end of practice before Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Willie Green was as assistant in Golden State before joining the Phoenix staff last season.
Willie Green was as assistant in Golden State before joining the Phoenix staff last season.

“I'm happy and I'm unbelievably sad about it because he's just a huge part of my life,” saidSuns coach Monty Williams, who had coached Green during part of his 12-year NBA career. “He's been a big, big part of our program.”

That partly explains why the Pelicans hired Green in the first place. The Warriors and Suns praised Green for how related to players with both a personable touch while also providing X’s and O’s expertise. Although Van Gundy and Griffin had the same vision with using Williamson as a play-making forward, the two eventually had philosophical differences. Van Gundy’s old-school approaches with demanding practices and feedback did not yield enough positive results. The Pelicans finished in 11th place in the Western Conference with a 31-41 record.

As for Green, he drew on his early-coaching experiences from playing stints with the Philadelphia 76ers (2003-10), former New Orleans Hornets (2010-11), the Atlanta Hawks (2011-2012), the Los Angeles Clippers (2012-14) and the Orlando Magic (2014-15). He played on seven playoff teams.

“New Orleans is going to have a really good guy on their hands that is taking control in leading that group,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “So obviously it's always tough to lose somebody like that out of the organization, but you look at the bigger picture. You know how he's going to be able to take care of his family. I'm sure it's been something he's been working for, wanting to get to for a very long time.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pelicans hire Willie Green in hopes of maximizing Zion Williamson