Wizards Assistant Coaches

Don Newman, Assistant Coach

Don Newman enters is first season as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. Newman brings more than 20 years of experience to the Wizards’ staff, including the past seven seasons as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. During his successful tenure with the Spurs, Newman worked under Gregg Popovich and helped lead San Antonio to a pair of NBA Championships (2005 and 2007), a pair of Western Conference championships (2005 and 2007) and five Division titles (2005, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012). In each of Newman’s seven seasons on the bench, the Spurs won 50 of more games, including a 50-16 mark last season en route to a Southwest Division title.

Newman originally joined the NBA as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1999. In his four seasons with the Bucks, Milwaukee made three playoff appearances and won the Central Division title in the 2000-01 season. Newman served as an assistant with the New Jersey during the 2003-04 season, in which the Nets captured the Atlantic Division title and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. He also served as an assistant for USA Basketball during the 2002 World Championships.

Prior to his time in the NBA, Newman spent 10 years in college basketball. He served as a head coach with Sacramento State (1992-97) and was named the interim head coach at Arizona State in 1997, leading the Sun Devils to an 18-14 record and a trip to the NIT Tournament. Newman also had stints as an assistant coach with Oregon and Washington State.

Newman played three seasons of basketball at the University of Idaho (after spending his freshman year at LSU) and was originally drafted by two NBA teams. After being selected by Indiana in the fourth round of the 1979 Draft (as a junior eligible selection), he was selected by Boston in the third round of the 1980 Draft. He played three seasons in the CBA (for the Montana Golden Nuggets where George Karl was his head coach) and also played seven seasons in the CFL. He was invited to training camp with both the Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets.

Newman and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters, Chandi and Devan.


Don Zierden, Assistant Coach

Don Zierden is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. Zierden came to Washington after spending the previous two seasons as head coach of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Prior to working in the WNBA, Zierden served as an assistant coach for two seasons with the Detroit Pistons from 2005-07.

The Minnesota native began his NBA career in Minnesota with the Timberwolves, where he served as the team’s video coordinator for the 1999-2000 season. Following his first season with Minnesota, he was promoted to assistant coach/director of player development on July 11, 2000. Zierden was a part of the coaching staff that led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals in 2004, and he remained with the club through the 2004-05 season.

Zierden’s coaching career has also included time at the University of Tulsa (1986-88), and in the Continental Basketball Association with the La Crosse Catbirds (1990-94, including winning the 1992 CBA Championship). Additionally, Zierden has been the head coach of the CBA’s Pittsburgh Piranhas (who he took to the CBA Finals in 1995), and the La Crosse Bobcats.

Zierden and his wife, Anne, and two children, Rachel and Isaiah who is a freshman on Creighton University’s basketball team.


Sam Cassell, Assistant Coach

Sam Cassell is in his fourth season in the NBA coaching ranks after his hire by the Wizards on May 21, 2009. Cassell moved to the bench after an outstanding 15-season NBA career, in which he won three NBA championships; two with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995 and one with the Boston Celtics in 2008.

In 993 career regular season games, the former All-Star averaged 15.7 points and 6.0 assists per game. Cassell made his mark as a clutch player in his rookie season in 1994 when he averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds off of the bench in the playoffs to help the Rockets to their first NBA Championship, and was a key contributor on the Rockets squad that won the title again in 1995.

The Baltimore native also appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld’s Milwaukee Bucks in 2001 and the Western Conference Finals with Flip Saunders’ Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004.

The 2003-04 season marked one of Cassell’s finest seasons as a professional, as he averaged 19.8 points and 7.3 assists per game. Cassell was named to the NBA All-Star game for the first time in his career and was also named All-NBA Second Team during that campaign.

Cassell played two seasons at San Jacinto College in Texas before starring at Florida State University from 1991-1993. In 2004, Cassell was inducted into the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame.


Ryan Saunders, Assistant Coach

Ryan Saunders enters his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards.

Saunders is instrumental in assisting with the preparation for upcoming opponents with extensive scouting reports and statistical analysis. Saunders came to the Wizards after spending a year coaching under Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers to an NCAA Tournament appearance. In addition to his on-court work, he helped players with their academic and social development off the court.

Before moving to the sidelines, Saunders played four seasons at Minnesota, where he was a two-time team captain, four-time scholar athlete award winner and 2006 Big Ten All-Academic selection. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in applied kinesiology.

With his expertise in statistical analysis, Saunders helped developed Gametime Concepts, a statistics program used by various NBA and NCAA basketball teams. Saunders is involved with various youth basketball camps and charitable organizations in Minnesota.


Joe Connelly, Assistant Coach

For two decades, Joe Connelly has helped develop many of the top high school, college and professional basketball players in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.

Recognized for his work in developing young and rising basketball players, Connelly was named the Wizards' assistant coach/player development on January 25, 2012.

Over the past five offseasons, Connelly has conducted offseason player development programs for many NBA players, including Washington Wizards' guards John Wall and Roger Mason, Wizards' center Hamady Ndiaye and New York Knicks' forward Jared Jefferies.

During the 2010-11 season, Connelly worked in player development with the Dakota Wizards, the Wizards' NBA D-League affiliate. He tutored Ndiaye, who appeared in 11 games and averaged 4.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 18.4 minutes per contest.

Prior to working in player development, Connelly launched the Baltimore Freedom Academy's high school basketball program and served as the team's head coach from 2005-2009. He also served as an AAU coach and was also instrumental in grassroots basketball programs throughout the Baltimore area from 2001-05.

For more than a decade, Connelly served as an assistant coach at Towson Catholic High School in Baltimore and tutored four-time All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.

Connelly earned an undergraduate degree from Morgan State in 1995 in history and graduated with a master's degree in teaching from John Hopkins in 2000.

Connelly's brother, Pat, is the Wizards' director of player personnel and has been a member of the team's basketball operations department for six seasons. His brother, Tim, was named the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Hornets in 2010. Tim previously worked with the Wizards from 1999-2010, where he most recently served as Washington's director of player personnel.


Pat Sullivan, Assistant Coach/Advance Scout

Pat Sullivan begins his first season with the Wizards as an advance scout. Prior to coming to Washington, Sullivan served as an assistant coach with the Pistons for three years from 2008-2011. He has also served as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets from 2005-08. Sullivan was promoted to the bench with the Pistons under Larry Brown in 2004-05, after serving as assistant coach/video coordinator during the club’s 2003-04 NBA Championship season. Sullivan has served as head coach for the Pistons summer league team that competed at the Vegas Summer League in 2010 and 2011.

The Bogota, New Jersey native brings over 18 years of basketball experience with him as either a player or a coach. As a player at North Carolina, Sullivan played in three NCAA Final Fours (1991, 1993 and 1995) and coached in three as an assistant coach at UNC (1997, 1998 and 2000). Following his stint at UNC, Sullivan moved to North Carolina-Wilmington, where he was an assistant coach from 2001-03.

Sullivan graduated from North Carolina in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in communications.