He does not yet have the hollow eyes of Doug Collins or the lightning-quick temper of Jack Ramsay or the megaphone voice of Kevin Loughery. Four games into his NBA coaching career, Wes Unseld says there are many things he hasn't accomplished, many agonies he has yet to endure.
"The jury's still out," the Washington Bullets' new coach said. "There are still a lot of things that haven't come up."
That may be, but the early returns have been good. The Bullets play their fifth game under Unseld at 3 this afternoon at Capital Centre against Sacramento, and they have three wins, including a 32-point victory over New Jersey and a 29-point victory over Milwaukee in their last two games.
Unseld has been careful not to criticize his predecessor, Loughery, whom he calls "not just a good coach, but a friend." Still, the differences in the Bullets under Unseld and under Loughery are hard not to notice. On the court, Unseld's Bullets are running more, and in a half-court game, playing simpler.
Their meat-and-potatoes strategy is still getting the ball to center Moses Malone down low, but occasionally, Unseld has moved Malone away from the basket and asked him to set picks and make passes. Getting Malone away from the basket has allowed forward Bernard King more freedom to work inside, and under Unseld, King has shot 58 percent from the field and had games of 25, 27, 22 and 12 points.
The Bullets may still be a dominant rebounder away from being a team that can win 50 games, but for the first time this season, expectations and morale are both high.
A perfect new career, right?
"I don't know," Unseld said. "I think I still have a lot of things to prove and so does the team. Things have happened so fast that I haven't really had a chance to sit down and reflect."
But he's also clearly enjoying the early days of coaching.
"You have fun when you win," he said. "That's the only way I know how to put it. We've won a couple of games, but that's not what I call winning. I do like it so far."
His players say Unseld has been enthusiastic in practice and thorough in his preparation. Before each game, he gives each player a typewritten scouting report about each player on the opposing team. Unseld said he began the scouting reports because he wanted each of his players to think about the players they'd be matched against.
But he has gone out of his way to say he doesn't consider himself any genius and said the Bullets wouldn't spend hours preparing for the nuances of each opponent.
"There are little things you're going to do for every team," he said, "but those are usually things everyone does. What I think is that it's important for us to concentrate on our own game. . . . I believe you play the way you practice. You don't prepare when the games start. You won't see me using a lot of pads or any of that. If you're not prepared by the time the game starts, you're not going to get there. We've wanted our players to be physical, and our practices have been very physical. We've had to do that to get our point across."
Malone, in particular, has been rejuvenated since Unseld took over. After Malone hit 14 of 16 shots Thursday against Milwaukee, Unseld said, "I don't know if he's on a mission, but if he is, I want to go there, too. He was just unbelievable."
After that game, Malone sat in front of his locker almost a half-hour to joke with reporters and talk about his new coach.
"The big thing is playing hard," Malone said. "If we play hard, we think we can beat anyone. This team has a lot of talent, and it should be winning. Wes has us thinking about running, and if you can run, you're going to look good. It's hard to miss when you're shooting layups."