Spring 2021 Magazine

Phoenix Suns name Monty Williams, 'a high-character individual,' as their next head coach

After just 19 wins in the 2018-19 season, tied for second-worst in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns fired head coach Igor Kokoskov following his first season. The team announced Friday that it will fill the role with Monty Williams, who’s currently the lead assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Williams, who was the New Orleans Pelicans head coach for five years, will be the Suns’ seventh coach in an eight-season span.

“Monty brings a wealth of NBA experience, both as a coach and former player, in addition to being a high-character individual who will infuse basketball wisdom and life lessons into our locker room,” Suns general manager James Jones said in a statement. “Monty is well respected for his coaching pedigree, leadership and commitment to the community, all of which make him the ideal person to lead our team moving forward.”

“Anybody who pays attention even a little bit understands he’s elite people,” 76ers head coach Brett Brown said. “He’s an emerging, relatively young coach who’s incredibly relational and has been studying how to be an NBA coach.”

The 47-year-old Williams returned to coaching this past season for Philadelphia after spending the previous two years in the San Antonio Spurs’ front office. He served as the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans head coach from 2010-15, making the playoffs twice. He was fired in 2015 and then joined the Oklahoma City Thunder as associate head coach. But he stepped down from that position after a car accident took the life of his wife, Ingrid, in February 2016.

“This is hard for my family, but this will work out,” Williams said during his eulogy. “And my wife would punch me if I were to sit up here and whine about what’s going on. That doesn’t take away the pain. But it will work out because God causes all things to work out. You just can’t quit. … You can’t give in.”

To be closer to extended family for help with his five children, Williams moved to San Antonio and began working as the Spurs’ vice president of basketball operations in September 2016. Taking the 76ers job last summer was viewed as a step toward becoming a head coach again.

Now the head man in Phoenix, Williams, as always, will rely on his faith in God to direct him and his family.

“I had the idea that because I was faith-based, things would work out well for me,” he recently told The Undefeated. “I thought that being a man of faith, that was a byproduct of that. Having been around a little bit, I’ve come to realize that my faith is something I can hang on to in the good and not-so-good times, and it allows me to deal with both the success and the failures and the in-between. It’s not a good-luck charm.”

He’s enjoyed a successful playing and coaching career in the NBA, but Williams knows he needs Christ more every day.

“There’s a lot of times within the faith, as a Christian, that most people think we walk around like we have it together, and I just got to be straight with you,” Williams said. “The longer you’re walking with the Lord, it’s the exact opposite. It’s like way on the other end. I need the Lord because I don’t have it together. I am broken. I am flawed no matter how I’m viewed.”

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