Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green emerges as strong front-runner for New Orleans Pelicans head-coaching job, sources say

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Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green has emerged as the strong front-runner and the New Orleans Pelicans' choice to be the franchise's next head coach, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday evening.

A 12-year NBA veteran, Green has been an assistant with the Suns for the past two seasons and spent the previous three seasons on the Golden State Warriors' coaching staff. Green also has previous experience in New Orleans, as he played one season with the team in 2010-11, when it was still the Hornets.

As a player, Green made the playoffs in seven of his 12 seasons, including the lone year in New Orleans -- one of just seven playoff trips the team has made in franchise history.

That season, Green played on a team coached by Monty Williams and led by point guard Chris Paul. Now, Green is the front-runner to be pulled away from a Suns team led by Williams and Paul.

Green would replace Stan Van Gundy, who left the Pelicans after just one season.

The Pelicans went 31-41 in 2020-21, a disappointing result after the season started with playoff aspirations. In the end, New Orleans didn't even make the Western Conference play-in tournament.

The immediate future seems bright in New Orleans with two young All-Stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. The Pelicans have the No. 10 pick in the upcoming draft, but ESPN's Jonathan Givony noted in his most recent mock draft that "the No. 10 pick is believed to be one of the most available of any in the lottery, simply due to the team's expedited timeline."

New Orleans also has a plethora of future picks from the trades that sent Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers and Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks.

One of the reasons Green stood out as a coaching candidate is his ability to connect to players both as a locker room presence from his playing days and on the bench since he joined the coaching ranks.

At 39, Green would become the third-youngest coach in the NBA behind the Oklahoma City Thunder's Mark Daigneault (35) and the Memphis Grizzlies' Taylor Jenkins (36).