Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Coach Monty Williams delivers heartfelt speech after Suns go 8-0 in NBA bubble

Led by head coach Monty Williams and a core group of young but talented players, the Phoenix Suns will be leaving the NBA bubble in Orlando — despite going 8-0 during their time there.

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The Suns entered the bubble for the unusual and abbreviated end to the NBA’s regular season with a 26-39 record and in 13th place in the Western Conference. Yet by Thursday night, it took a missed game-winner from the Brooklyn Nets to keep Phoenix out of the playoffs.

With the narrow win, Brooklyn’s opponent, the Portland Trailblazers, will be advancing to the play-in matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. Had Portland lost, Phoenix would have been in. Instead, the Suns are out of the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.

Still, with eight straight victories over NBA heavyweights, Williams doesn’t want his young team to lose sight of what they accomplished during their two weeks in Orlando, or how much he cares about them as people.

“This was therapeutic for me, to be around a group like this. I gotta tell you guys, I love you. I do. I don’t care what happens tonight,” Williams told his team after their final victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, before their playoff fate was determined. “I know what I got in this room. It has been cool for me to be with y’all every day, to watch you guys work and battle and gain the respect of your peers the way you have on this trip.”

The Suns hired Williams as their head coach in May 2019. Phoenix notched 34 wins, 15 more than the previous season, in nine fewer games during his first year.

Williams has coached in the NBA after his own nine-year career came to an end in 2003. He coached the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans for five seasons from 2010-2015 and has been an assistant in Portland, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia.

Throughout his time as a player and as a coach, Williams has been outspoken about his faith in Christ. He was a guest on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in September 2019 and appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine.

In 2016, Williams endured the death of his wife, Ingrid, in a head-on collision while three of his five children were in the car. His children survived the crash, but lost their mother. Mired in mourning only nine days later, Williams delivered a powerful message to over 900 people at Ingrid’s funeral.

“We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness,” he said. “That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard. It is very hard. And that was tough, but we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family, and we as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family because they grieve as well.”

Williams said on the podcast that it was his faith in Christ that carried him through his heartache.

“[God] is good,” he said. “He loves me. You go through a time like that and you tend to lose sight of that because you are hurting, but God is good.”

Williams said he clings to the promises God has revealed in His Word to keep him from succumbing to life’s distractions. Williams knows that life has a greater purpose than basketball success.

“For me, it always goes back to Matthew 6:33, ‘Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ That’s where I have to keep my focus — on the Lord,” Williams said on the podcast. “There are times when you tend to lose track of your focus. Sometimes it’s just on basketball or wins and losses. God told us to focus on Him and He’ll take care of the other stuff. My prayer and hope is that I can do that consistently.”

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