Amid the latest surge of Ben Simmons-to-elsewhere rumors that emerged from The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Tuesday, he included a nugget about a bygone 76er who has since risen up the coaching ranks:
Sources: The Pelicans are planning to hire Suns assistant Willie Green. Green, 39, has played 12 NBA seasons and has developed a strong reputation across five seasons as an assistant, including two titles in Golden State.https://t.co/sdjV49uw3h— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 13, 2021
Green, of course, played for the Sixers between 2003 and 2010, averaging 9.3 points and 1.9 rebounds on some middling pre-and-post-Iverson teams. He was drafted 41st overall by the Sixers in 2003.
After his Philadelphia career concluded, Green played for the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers, before finishing his playing days by logging minutes in 52 games with the Orlando Magic in the 2014-15 season.
Since his retirement, Green has been a respected assistant coach in the NBA. He won consecutive championships assisting Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018. Currently, Green is aiding Monty Williams and the Phoenix Suns in their Finals run versus Milwaukee.
The Pelicans job is an attractive one, as it equips the former Sixer with the opportunity to coach and develop one of the finest young stars in the league, Zion Williamson. Green will succeed Stan Van Gundy, who coached only one year in NOLA.
On a personal note: for some reason, I absolutely adored Willie Green growing up. I do not know why. I found him endlessly endearing. I met him at a Verizon store on City Line Avenue once when I was a teenager. He shook my hand and was very kind. Maybe that’s it.
Last year, I wrote a piece summing up the Sixers-related takeaways from Andre Iguodala’s book, Sixth Man, and included a passage Iggy wrote about Green — his former teammate.
“He learned the game from Kevin Ollie and I learned a lot of it from him. Willie Green was very clear about the things you need to do to stay in the NBA. At six-three, he was in a tough spot as an undersized shooting guard. To compensate, he played hard every day, every practice, every game. If he had to break your leg to get minutes, he would. But he did it respectfully, as funny as it sounds. He would tell you, ‘I’m going at you today...sorry man, I gotta eat.’ It didn’t matter that he was your teammate, Willie would straight up take your lunch money.”
Anyway, congratulations to Willie Green on securing the Pelicans head coaching job. Forever one of my all-time favorite Sixers, I wish him nothing but the best.