Wizards promote interim head coach Brian Keefe to permanent job, replacing Wes Unseld Jr.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Brian Keefe of the Washington Wizards calls out to players during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Capital One Arena on March 27, 2024 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
Brian Keefe has been an NBA assistant for 17 years. This is his first head-coaching job at any level. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)

The Washington Wizards are keeping it in-house for their head-coaching hire.

The team promoted interim head coach Brian Keefe to the permanent job, the team announced Wednesday. Keefe took over for Wes Unseld Jr., who was moved to the front office in January.

Keefe's NBA career goes back to 2005, when he joined the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator under Gregg Popovich and won a ring in 2007. He went on to work as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets and the Wizards, where he became lead assistant last offseason.

This will be Keefe's first head-coach job at any level. Before his NBA career, he played in college at UC Irvine and UNLV, then worked as an assistant at South Florida and Bryant University.

From the Wizards:

“We are excited for Brian to become our next head coach. Brian is a proven motivator and connector of people,” said Wizards General Manager Will Dawkins. “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.”

While the Wizards touted their improvement in defensive rating, net rating and opponent 3-point percentage after Keefe took the interim title, the overall change was a marginal improvement from 7-36 under Unseld to 8-31 under Keefe.

Keefe is taking over for the Wizards at a moribund time in team history, even by Wizards standards. The team has made the playoffs only once in the past six seasons, and it only made the postseason by going 34-38 in 2020-21. Its last playoff series win was in 2017 — two head coaches ago.

The team moved on from longtime star Bradley Beal and is firmly at the bottom of a rebuilding cycle, where winning cedes priority to maximizing draft capital and incubating young talent. The Wizards will get their first real crack at the latter in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft, where they hold the second overall pick. Yahoo Sports' Krysten Peek has them taking rising French prospect Zaccharie Risacher in her most recent mock draft.

Of course, the Wizards' checklist for success is much larger than hitting on one draft prospect. The team has Jordan Poole's awful contract on the books for the next three seasons, and it'll spend much of that time throwing whatever it can get against the wall and seeing if it can make a contender out of it.

With Keefe, the Wizards just picked their man on the ground.