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Pelicans hire Willie Green as next head coach

Green spent one year playing for the New Orleans Hornets under head coach Monty Williams in 2010.
Credit: AP
FILE - Phoenix Suns assistant coach Willie Green is shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Denver, in this Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, file photo. A person familiar with the situation says the New Orleans Pelicans are negotiating with Suns assistant Willie Green about taking over as head coach but no deal is in place and discussions could extend beyond the NBA Finals. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing and the Pelicans have not publicly discussed coaching candidates. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

NEW ORLEANS — Ten years after his brief stint as a New Orleans Hornet, Willie Green is returning to coach the New Orleans Pelicans.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced Green as their new head coach on Thursday.

Before Green’s hire was official, Suns star Devin Booker all but made the announcement for New Orleans in a post-game interview.

“Just excited for him first, his family. We’ve been through a lot these last two years, year and a half of spending a lot of time together. We’ve developed a relationship, and I respect him to the fullest,” Booker said. “New Orleans is going to get a really good guy on their hands that’s taking control and leading that group.”

Green brings five years of coaching experience, but reports say that his experience as a player is what attracted the Pelicans to him.

Green was a second-round draft pick in 2003, playing with the 76ers, (New Orleans) Hornets, Hawks, Clippers and Magic over his 12 seasons in the association.

He spent one year on the New Orleans Hornets under head coach Monty Williams in 2010.

Green started his coaching career with the Golden State Warriors, going to three straight NBA Finals and winning two of them under Steve Kerr. He joined the Phoenix Suns in 2019 as Monty Williams’ lead assistant, helping the team make the turn from missing the playoffs entirely to playing in the NBA Finals.

Green becomes the Pelicans’ third head coach in as many years. Coach Stan Van Gundy “mutually parted ways” with the Pelicans after one season due to “differences” with Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin. Before that, Alvin Gentry was fired after four seasons with the team.

The Pelicans started the 2020-21 season with playoff hopes and ended it with a disappointing 31-41 record.

Now that the Pelicans have a head coach, they have more big decisions to make. The Pelicans have the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft. They also have restricted free agent Lonzo Ball, who could leave for a lucrative contract elsewhere if the Pelicans aren’t willing to invest major money in the young guard.