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Washington Wizards Name Brian Keefe Interim Head Coach

Meet new interim Washington Wizards head coach Brian Keefe. Former Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. was relieved of his duties Thursday morning. Under Unseld Jr., Washington had a 77-130 overall record. This opportunity for Keefe will be his first time serving as a head coach. Can Keefe work out some kinks for the Wizards?

Washington Wizards Name Brian Keefe Interim Head Coach

Who Is Brian Keefe?

Keefe started his career as an assistant coach at the University of South Florida (’00-’01) and then took his talents to Bryant University (’01-’05). At Bryant, Keefe helped the Bulldogs reach their only Division II national championship appearance in 2005. Keefe then went to the NBA as an assistant and had tenures with the Oklahoma City Thunder (’07-’15 and ’19-’20), New York Knicks (’15-’16), Los Angeles Lakers (’16-’19), and Brooklyn Nets (’21-’23).

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant spent his entire Oklahoma City tenure (’07-’16) with Keefe on the sidelines. In the clip, Durant stated, “He (Keefe) prioritized shoot arounds, practices, schemes. Since I was 18 to probably when I was 25 he groomed me into the player I am today.”

Keefe was responsible for developing the young players when he arrived in Seattle (prior to the Oklahoma City transition) in 2007. The young core for the Thunder at the time included Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden are future locks for the Hall of Fame. Keefe also helped develop Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who made First Team All-NBA last season.

Keefe served as the defense coordinator for the Thunder and Nets during his stints there. At the time of his service, both teams were legitimate playoff contenders. Keefe’s player developmental skills and defensive mindset are highly valuable to Washington.

What Can Keefe Do for the Wizards for the Remainder of the Season?

The Wizards announced that the organization will bring in a new coach during the offseason. So what can Keefe do with the remaining 39 games? He can develop the young players, emphasize defense, and help change how the team approaches the game. Since Keefe is in a bigger role, he can probably play rookie Bilal Coulibaly more, who currently shoots 46.9% from the field. Coulibaly is a high-energy player who is effective on both ends of the floor and has a high ceiling. Forward Deni Avdija, fresh off a 24-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves, can also benefit under Keefe. Expect Washington to utilize the younger talents more often for the rest of the season.

Defensively, Washington ranks second-last in defense (120.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) and last in rebounding (40.2 per game). Those rankings were under Unseld Jr., so expect Keefe to make much-needed adjustments going forward. Regarding the team’s approach, Keefe will likely emphasize shootarounds, warm-ups and everything before, during, and after game time. Under Unseld Jr. this season, Washington looked lackadaisical and played carelessly. Keefe now has the uphill battle to change the team’s old habits inherited under Unseld Jr.

Keefe’s first test as a head coach is against the Utah Jazz (22-23) on Thursday night at the Capital One Arena. If Keefe can show a glimmer of advancement throughout the remainder of the season, it can go a long way for him to be a head coach for another team.

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