For Wes Unseld Jr., the first 72 hours of his career as an NBA head coach were a whirlwind of activity, excitement and emotion.

Within that span of time he had gotten the obligatory splash bath after his first win; learned that his father had been named one of the league’s top 75 players, and then participated in the ceremony at Capital One Arena as the Washington Wizards unveiled a bronze bust honoring his dad, Wes Sr.

And, oh yeah, there was a game to prepare for — tonight’s home opener against the Indiana Pacers.

“I do look forward to walking through these halls throughout the season to see not only the bust of my father, but to take a peek up in the rafters and see his retired jersey,” Wes Jr. said. “Our home opener will be a special night for a number of reasons, but this makes it that much more special.”

Jim Henneman and Wes Unseld's bust
Jim Henneman stands next to the bust of Wes Unseld. (Photo Credit: Margie Weiss)

Last night’s invitation-only unveiling of the bust honoring the franchise’s most legendary figure was a two-years-in-the-making brainchild of team owner Ted Leonsis, who first admired Unseld as a fan while at Georgetown University.

“I would like to thank the Unseld family for allowing us to do this and pay some measure of homage to Wes Unseld and what he meant to our fans, what he meant to our city and what he meant to the NBA,” Leonsis said. “… I admired the way he played then, and then I found him to be what I wanted to be — a pillaring member of the community while being a great husband, and a great father and great grandfather.”

The first five of Unseld’s 14 years in the NBA came in Baltimore, where he established himself as a strong community contributor, a trait that continued throughout his career. His wife, Connie, and daughter, Kim, run the Unselds’ School, which opened in 1978, the same year the then-Washington Bullets won the franchise’s only NBA championship.

After battling assorted health problems the last few years, Unseld passed away in the midst of the pandemic on June 2, 2020.

Wes Jr., whose apprenticeship included many assistant jobs along the way, was named Wizards head coach last July. His dad no doubt would have celebrated while keeping within his personality and saying, “Do you know what you’re getting into?” But there are no mixed emotions for his mother.

“To have him come back, to coach this team, brings so much joy,” said a very emotional Connie, reflecting on the evening’s celebration while also celebrating the fact the grandchildren she and Wes Sr. doted on would also be in the neighborhood.

Connie has always taken great pride in the fact that Wes Jr. was the first graduate of the family school, which stands as a very unique, fully-accredited, black-owned, non-church-affiliated school, now in its sixth decade on the west side of Baltimore.

“[Wes, Jr.] went on to graduate from Loyola Blakefield and Johns Hopkins, so we must’ve done pretty good,” she said during an interview a few years ago.

A pillar in the community in her own right, Connie couldn’t be prouder than to have her son come home to his father’s team. Wes Jr. would never aspire to replace Wes Sr., but those who know him are sure he’s the best possible representative. It runs in the family.

Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com

See Also:
• Jim Henneman: Let’s Not Forget Wes Unseld Was A Damn Good Player, Too
Jim Henneman: Wes Unseld’s Impact On Court Met Only By His Character

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Washington Wizards