Suns

Can Williams Stabilize Suns?

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Suns fans right now are like the seething alien dolls trapped in the clawbox at Pizza Palace in Toy Story– helpless and waiting direction from anyone of authority.

After the Philadelphia 76ers lost in seven games to the Toronto Raptors on an insane bounce from Kawhi Leonard’s last-second, running-out-of-bounds shot, Monty Williams officially became the Phoenix Suns head coach. Mooooonntyyyyy. He’s ours now.

For the first time in a long time, the Suns have made a major move towards sustainability by signing Williams to a five-year contract. The only other coach in Suns’ history to coach five straight years was Mike D’Antoni. Barring more erratic front office decision-making and/or egregious losing, Williams will hold that position through the 2024 season.

This will take him through the end of Devin Booker’s recently signed contract and hopefully halfway through a rookie extension for Deandre Ayton. Given the youth on this team, Monty will have his work cut out for him. The job comes with an unseen ceiling and unmarked potential desperate to bloom. He’ll undoubtedly become a leader on and off the court as they work through the season and will bear the responsibility for the ups and the downs. It’s a scenario not unfamiliar to Williams.

Monty Williams as assistant coach for the Sixers. Photo from Philly.com

Veteran Coaching Background

After five years as an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers, Monty Williams became a first-time head coach for the then-New Orleans Hornets in 2010-11. Williams had the benefit of running with prime-time Chris Paul, David West and Trevor Ariza to the playoffs, but fell out in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

Then came the attempted trade of Chris Paul, the actual trade of Chris Paul, the NBA Lockout, the franchise name change, the drafting of Anthony Davis, and their record fell back to the dredges. But, in five years Williams steadily improved their record year-over-year and helped bring Davis and the Pelicans to the playoffs in his last year. His record with the team was 173–221.

The past two years Williams has been a coaching assistant, first for the Oklahoma City Thunder one year, and this past season for the Sixers. Hopefully his time spent with the development of Davis and another big goofy seven-footer in Joel Embiid will help him with Deandre Ayton’s improvement.

League-Wide Respect

Monty Williams also spent time in the league playing small forward from 1994-2003 for five different teams: Magic, Spurs, Knicks, Sixers and the Nuggets. That on-court experience and time with different organizations has surely helped to feed the narrative that Williams is a class-act and worthy of his position.

With the half-decade contract, it seems Suns owner Robert “So Tight He Squeaks When He Walks” Sarver finally decided to look at the Big Picture.

Shams Charania reported that Sarver admitted to his past mistakes with the franchise and would allow new GM James Jones and Coach Monty more autonomy than past teams. I.E. he’ll keep his grubby hands off of team decision. It’s great news, but Sarver has made statements to repair is sullied image before, so we’ll hold off on the confetti for now.

The Suns’ last major coaching hire who held a winning record was Alvin Gentry back when he coached from 2009-13. Monty Williams will be the team’s sixth coach in seven years, so the real celebration will be when he starts his fourth (hopefully winning) year with the team.

General Uncertainty and Confusion

True, the firing of Igor Kokoskov was premature, unfair, unjustified, and another lousy move from an organization with a record only a tick worse than last season’s. By the end of the season, the team’s five potential starters and first two off the bench were injured and a consistent point guard, again, never accumulated.

Without a confident, consensus point guard to carry the head coach’s schemes into on-the-court play, your team is already floundering. It’s hard to imagine if even the sport’s greatest coaches could’ve done much more. Winning another 15-20 games would’ve been huge, but still would’ve dunked the team under Dallas, Memphis and New Orleans for a battle of the best of the worst.

Maybe Kokoskov just wasn’t a great coach for this particular team, but that’s hardly the only culprit in the team’s losing ways. Now that Igor has left the desert, though, it’s time to move onto the next play just like in any game.

Monty Williams is the head coach that can bring a positive culture, name recognition, grounded principals and, hopefully, a winning dynamic with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and the other young Suns stars that either don’t get traded or end up being Zion Williamson. (*fingers crossed* *places hex on NBA Draft* *looks up the Claw*)

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About Eli Jace

Eli Jace is from Arizona.

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