The last couple of head coaching vacancies in the NBA were filled in the last week after the Orlando Magic hired Jamahl Mosley and the New Orleans Pelicans hired Willie Green.
Instead of the old-school coaching carousel where teams recycle the same dozen or so head coaches, the Magic and Pelicans gambled on hiring rookie head coaches who spent the last few years as assistants in the league.
The Pelicans are +8000 odds to win the 2022 NBA Championship, according to DraftKings. The Magic are the last team and moon shot on the futures board at +50000 odds to win the title.
Mosley tapped to rebuild Magic
Mosley never made it to the NBA, but he played his collegiate ball with the Colorado Buffs before going undrafted. He didn’t want to give up his dream of playing pro ball somewhere, so he headed overseas. Mosley became one of numerous American ex-pats playing abroad. He paid his dues in Australia, Spain, Finland, and South Korea. He found the most success with the NBL in Australia, where he was named their Sixth Man of the Year with the Victoria Titans in 2002.
Mosley returned to the States to become a scout with the Denver Nuggets. By 2007, he earned a spot on the Nuggets’ coaching staff. He spent several seasons as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavs before joining the Dallas Mavericks. He became a trusted confidant of then-head coach Rick Carlisle. In the last few seasons, Mosley was essentially the Mavs’ version of a defensive coordinator, and responsible for the daily defensive assignments.
“We welcome Jamahl and his family to the Magic family,” said Magic President Jeff Weltman. “Within the NBA coaching community, Jamahl is considered a rising star. His coaching path is rooted in player development. He is a communicator and connector, and we look forward to him leading our group.”
The Magic went 21-51 last season for the third-worst record in the NBA. They gutted their team shortly before the trade deadline. They traded almost any player of value, including big man Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier. Mosley walked into a reclamation project with the Magic, but at least he finally got his first job as an NBA head coach.
Willie Green: Project Zion
Green is a former NBA player who spent 12 years in the league, mostly as a backup shooting guard. He had one stand-out season as a starter with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2007-08 when he averaged 12.4 ppg.
Green pivoted to coaching when his career ended. He was a member of Steve Kerr’s staff with the Golden State Warriors between 2016 and 2019, where he won two championships as an assistant coach.
In 2019, Green headed to the Phoenix Suns, where he spent the last two seasons. Green also gets his first taste as an NBA head coach with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Magic is a straight-up rebuild from ground zero, but the Pelicans have a solid foundation with Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans went 31-41 and missed the playoffs. They fired Stan Van Gundy after just one season. The franchise and players realized right away that Van Gundy wasn’t the right guy for the job. Zion and Van Gundy got along and had a respectful relationship, but Van Gundy was still a decade behind the modern NBA.
Doc Rivers from the 76ers had nothing but positive things to say about Green.
“There are certain people who have a way of telling you a thing you need to hear,” said Rivers. “And instead of you reacting to it, you’re accepting. Willie is in that group. He just has that rare thing. The ability to tell you the straight truth without offending you. There are not a lot of people on earth like that.”
The Pelicans hope that Green can be the guy who can help elevate Zion into an elite player and turn the Pelicans into a title contender. Green becomes Zion’s third head coach in three seasons.