Jim O'Donnell: Is Wes Unseld Jr. the curse breaker for the Bulls?

  • Denver Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. could be a candidate for the Bulls' top job.

    Denver Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. could be a candidate for the Bulls' top job. Associated Press

Updated 8/14/2020 2:56 PM

"THE CURSE OF THE BREAKUP" is the expanding NBA legend that the Bulls will never win another championship as long as the name "Reinsdorf" is affiliated with the franchise.

It's said to be the karmic brick wall for gratuitously casting aside Hoop Diamond #23 back in the bummer of 1998-99.


But coaching vacancies can do so much to suggest an all-new alignment of the moon, the stars and the lanes so long absent of "Air."

Especially if the next head coach of the drooping organization is named Wes Unseld Jr.

He's 44 years old and the lead assistant of the ascending Denver Nuggets.

He's also personable, pragmatic and possessed of a pedigree that's just about as regal as it gets around any golden court.

Father Wes Unseld was the muscular mastodon who served the Bullets/Wizards as essential player, coach and executive for close to 40 years.

Beyond his Hall of Fame career, Wes the Father also set standards for integrity, fellowship and community elevation that will cast a favorable sun on his son wherever he may go.

The Unseld giveback runs so deep that the family funded a private school in struggling Baltimore close to 30 years ago.

To this day, mother Connie Unseld and sister Kim -- legally blind because of diabetic retinopathy for most of the past decade -- continue to teach and administrate at the institution.

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(Wes Sr. -- age 74 -- passed away in June.)

Wes Jr. graduated Johns Hopkins in three years and had no intention of following anywhere near his father's fabled outlet passes.

"I had plans and then my dad said to me, 'Why don't you work for me for a year and then if you want, go to grad school?' " Unseld told media.

"So I did and I've never left the game. I never, ever planned on being a basketball coach."

The last five of those 23 years have been with the Nuggets, including the final three alongside Arturas Karnisovas. He's the first-year Bulls VP of basketball ops who will deliver a final recommendation to Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf.

With Denver, Unseld flipped a defensive bottom feeder into a Top 10 outfit. He's also been an absolute in the development of such bubbling talent as Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.


And for the truly cosmically conscious, here's a final Unseld-Reinsdorf link:

It was 35 years ago this past March when rookie chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made his enduring statement about wanting a team that played "in the Red Holzman style."

At the time, only two of Holzman's championship Knicks were coaching -- Phil Jackson with the old CBA's Albany Patroons and Willis Reed at Creighton.

When Wes Unseld was inducted into the Naismith Hall in 1988, his presenter?

Willis Reed.

One day on West Madison Street, it may be called "harmonic convergence."

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• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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