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Arizona grads Joseph Blair, Jesse Mermuys make NBA head coaching debuts on same day

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The NBA’s COVID-19 protocols have allowed numerous players an opportunity to see action they otherwise may never have gotten.

Some NBA assistants are also receiving temporary promotions because of head coaches entering health and safety protocols.

On Monday, Arizona grads Joseph Blair and Jesse Mermuys were elevated to acting head coach of their organizations, Blair with the Washington Wizards and Mermuys with the Orlando Magic.

Blair assumed head coaching duties ahead of the Wizards’ 117-98 win over Philadelphia after acting head coach Pat Delaney entered protocols (Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. has been in protocols since Jan. 14).

Blair played four seasons at Arizona (1992-96) and was a member of the 1994 Final Four team. Blair’s professional playing career lasted over 12 years and took him all over Europe. He transitioned to coaching in 2013, joining the UA staff as a grad assistant.

In 2015, Blair began his way up the NBA coaching ranks, first with the G-League’s Rio Grade Valley Vipers as an assistant and later as its head coach.

Blair was as assistant coach for the 76ers in 2019-20 and for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020-21. He joined Washington as an assistant for the 2021-2022 season.

Mermuys was named Orlando’s acting head coach Monday after Magic coach Jamahl Mosely and top assistant Nate Tibbetts entered protocols. Orlando hosts Portland Monday evening.

Mermuys is a Tucson native and UA grad who got his start in coaching as an assistant at Salpointe Catholic in 2001. Mermuys was Arizona’s director of operations from 2006-08.

Mermuys joined the Magic ahead of the 2021 season after serving as an assistant for Sacramento the past two years. Mermuys was previously an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto, Houston and Denver.