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Suns officially lose top assistant Willie Green to Pelicans

Willie Green moves to New Orleans with a streak of four Finals in five years on his resume

2021 NBA Finals - Phoenix Suns v. Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Just two days after completing a Finals run, Suns head coach Monty Williams has lost his top assistant, Willie Green, to the New Orleans Pelicans as their new head coach.

Green, who is just 39 years old and only six years removed from him playing years, becomes the third-youngest coach in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault and Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins.

Green has had an incredibly successful run as an assistant coach in the NBA.

His two teams have been to four NBA Finals in his five years in coaching, including two championships. He experienced three straight Finals from 2017-2019 with Golden State under Steve Kerr, the first two as a player development coach and the last as a full assistant coach. Then this year, he reached the Finals with the Suns as the top assistant under Monty Williams.

In a statement, 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.”

The Suns definitely respected Green, who regularly received praise from head coach Monty Williams and point guard Chris Paul for his work with players and schemes in his two years on the Suns sidelines as the top assistant.

All three had been together a decade ago in New Orleans, in fact, when Williams coached both Paul and Green for a year. They’ve respected each other and been friends ever since, and Green was Monty’s first choice to join his coaching staff when he took the Suns job.

Now he’s off to New Orleans to take over for Stan Van Gundy, whose Pelicans finished short of the play-in last year with just 31 wins on the season.

“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.”

Green has a nice foundation of players that includes a pair of young All-Stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, plus a number of high level role players. They just didn’t mesh with SVG’s schemes and never even threatened a playoffs bid.

Can Green find the right game plans and roles for his players to lead them into the playoff field that was predicted this past year? The Pelicans sure hope so.

“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.

The Suns will have a tough task to replace Green. The only assistants remaining under coach Monty Williams — voted by his peers as Coach of the Year in 2020-21 — from his first coaching staff two years ago are Randy Ayers and Mark Bryant.

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