Updated May 30th, 2024 at 12:18 IST

Brian Keefe will remain coach of the Washington Wizards after serving as an interim in that role

The Washington Wizards hired Brian Keefe as their coach on Wednesday, sticking with the man who led the team on an interim basis from late January until the end of the season.

Washington Wizards head coach Brian Keefe | Image:AP
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The Washington Wizards hired Brian Keefe as their coach on Wednesday, sticking with the man who led the team on an interim basis from late January until the end of the season.

Keefe was in his first season as an assistant coach for the Wizards when he was promoted to interim head coach on Jan. 25, replacing Wes Unseld Jr. Washington was 7-36 at the time of the change and went 8-31 the rest of the way.

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“We are excited for Brian to become our next head coach. Brian is a proven motivator and connector of people,” Wizards general manager Will Dawkins said in a statement. “As a leader in the organization, he will continue to positively grow and invest into the development of our players. His wealth of experience will help move our team forward as we build for long-term sustained success.”

Keefe was an assistant for Oklahoma City when the Thunder reached the NBA Finals in 2012. Keefe joined the Wizards after a couple of seasons with Brooklyn.

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“I look forward to continuing to work with our players and helping them grow and develop,” Keefe said. “As a team, we are committed to a collaborative approach to build an environment of accountability and hard work that allows us to improve every day.”

The Wizards broke up their core — one that wasn’t accomplishing much — last offseason when they traded Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. The result was predictable: Washington finished with a franchise-record 67 losses.

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The Wizards have the second pick in the June 26-27 draft, but it’s unclear if there’s a generational talent available who can expedite Washington’s rebuild. So Keefe’s return isn’t particularly huge news around the league — at least not compared to when the Lakers and Cavaliers eventually fill their coach openings.

Washington hasn’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1979. Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 22.2 points per game last season, and Jordan Poole can provide occasional scoring bursts. Washington took Bilal Coulibaly with the No. 7 pick in last year’s draft.

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Now Keefe will have a chance to prepare for a full season in charge instead of being thrust into a head coaching role near the midway point.

“BK did a tremendous job,” Poole said shortly after the end of the season. “Credit to him for rallying our guys together through a long season, playing players to their strengths all across our team and keeping guys together. He did a really good job of allowing me to play my true position and play more on ball. So he did a really good job. Credit to him — it was a tough move right away, being in the middle of the season.”

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Although Washington’s record spoke for itself, there were some positive comments about the team’s internal culture when players did exit interviews with the media.

“I’ve never felt closer with a group of guys than I do with these guys,” guard Landry Shamet said. “Winning can mask a lot of stuff that’s going on in a lot of other organizations. I think it was encouraging to see that there’s a real vested interest in building a foundation of community and connectedness here, and that definitely was noticed.”

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Published May 30th, 2024 at 12:18 IST