With the 35th pick in the 2019 draft, the New Orleans Pelicans took Didi Louzada, a Brazilian wing who at the time of his selection was still a teenager.
Louzada needed to develop before he was thrown into the NBA fire. So he signed with the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League in what is commonly referred to as a “draft-and-stash” maneuver.
In Louzada’s first season as the Pelicans’ stash, he played under Will Weaver, who before coaching one of New Orleans’ draft picks worked closely with one of the team’s key decision-makers.
Before he took over in Sydney, Weaver worked with Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon. In 2019, they both helped run the Brooklyn Nets’ G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. In 2018-19, Long Island went 34-16 and lost to Rio Grande in the G League Finals. Weaver earned G League Coach of the Year honors, while Langdon was named the G League Executive of the Year.
Weaver is widely considered to take a modern approach. Sydney Kings owner Paul Smith called him a “cutting-edge coach with a focus on player development” shortly after his hiring. In an appearance on the Basketball Immersion podcast, Weaver elaborated on what being “modern” means to him.
“I think that coaches have always been symbolically important,” Weaver said. “I think the extent to which coaches are identified — oftentimes, they are the most identifiable. They have the longest life with a program. For those reasons, they get held up more than they should. They bear more responsibility and get more credit and get more blame and can sometimes slip into that role if you thought of it as a play. I think that more and more as an industry, we’re distancing ourselves from that. That’s a good thing. It’s hard to be an actor and a teacher and a mentor and a good colleague.”
Weaver got his start in the NBA thanks to one of the most forward-thinking executives in recent memory: Sam Hinkie. Weaver and the man responsible for “The Process” in Philadelphia developed a relationship while Weaver was an assistant at Sam Houston State and Hinkie was working in the Rockets’ front office.
Hinkie brought Weaver with him to Philadelphia when the 76ers hired him to run the team in 2013. Weaver credits Hinkie and former 76ers coach Brett Brown as significant influences.
“The two of them shared a really obsessive focus on always keeping an eye on what’s most important,” Weaver told The Athletic. “They never lost sight of the big picture. Brett was incredible at purposefully texting, spending time having meals and having guys up to his office to watch film. Working with guys pregame on the floor, he showed me what being a relationship-driven coach really looked like. You see that to this day with the guys that he’s had and some of them who have been with him for a while now. They’re obviously trying to assemble a championship-level team. There was a ton of learning from Brett, and I still learn watching his teams play.”
David Griffin, the Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations, said in August he is looking for a head coach who will have a “shared vision” with ownership and the front office.
“I think our approach to this whole thing is to find the exact right fit,” Griffin said. “It’s very difficult to find the right voice with the right group of people that have a shared vision. I would tell you that hiring a coach is the hardest thing we do from a front office perspective, because it impacts every single part of your organization and it has the biggest impact every day on your players and the culture you’re trying to build. So it’s a very big job. It’s a difficult job. So finding the right person is going to be a very thorough mindful process on the part of everyone.”
Weaver is someone who seemingly would be on board with collaborating heavily with the Pelicans’ biggest decision-makers. He might be a dark horse, but he is a name worth monitoring nonetheless.