The New Orleans Pelicans officially named Willie Green as their head coach on Thursday.
Green is coming off an assistant season with the Phoenix Suns, who just reached the NBA Finals, delaying the timing of the Pelicans’ announcement.
“After an extensive and collaborative search, Willie stood out from an impressive pool of candidates as the best person to lead our team going forward,” Pelicans owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome Willie as our new head coach and look forward to working with him to guide our team on the court as we work to bring a championship to New Orleans.”
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called Green, a 12-year NBA veteran, one of the “most respected assistant coaches in the NBA.”
“He brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience to our team as 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 Ms. Benson, David Griffin and the entire Pelicans organization for having faith in me to lead this talented group of players going forward,” Green said. “It is a blessing and an honor to have this opportunity in a special place like New Orleans. I look forward to getting to work and immersing myself and my family in the local community.”
As a player, Green made the playoffs in seven of his 12 seasons, including his only year in New Orleans (2010-11), one of only seven times the team made the playoffs in franchise history.
That season, Green became part of a team coached by Monty Williams and led by point guard Chris Paul. Now the Pelicans are hiring Green out of 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 began with playoff aspirations. In the end, New Orleans didn’t even make the Western Conference play-in tournament.
At 39, Green becomes the third-youngest coach in the NBA behind Mark Daigneault of Oklahoma City and Taylor Jenkins of Memphis.