Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Headed to NBA Finals, Suns head coach Monty Williams says 'essence of my coaching is to serve'

Monty Williams always knew what his Phoenix Suns team was capable of. He just wasn’t sure if all the pieces would fall into place.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

“I thought if things go our way we could have a shot at competing, but I certainly didn’t know we were going to get here,” the Suns’ head coach said atΒ the very end of his postgame press conference late Wednesday night after advancing to the NBA Finals. “But I was crazy enough to think about it for sure, because I think that’s what everybody plays for.”

Chris Paul erupted for 31 second-half points as Phoenix pulled away from the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 to win the Western Conference Finals. What was a nine-point game at halftime turned into a comfortable 130-103 victory thanks in large part to Paul’s magnificent play.

One year after their memorable 8-0 showing in the Orlando bubble, Williams has taken the Suns somewhere only Jae Crowder has been before. Nearly half of Phoenix’s roster had never been to the playoffs prior to this season, let alone the NBA Finals. It is the franchise’s first appearance in the Finals since 1993.

“I’m just grateful, and I think I’m just getting old because I really enjoyed watching our players enjoy the moment,” Williams told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt during an appearance on SportsCenter. “But I’m so blessed to coach the guys that I coach, to work with the people I work with, to have a job, this kind of job, is something that I don’t take for granted.”

When asked by Van Pelt how he balances caring for his players while also holding them accountable, the 49-year-old pointed to his faith and outlined his approach to leading a team.

“I expressed from the time I got the job in Phoenix and to every new player that comes to our program, the essence of my coaching is to serve,” Williams said. “As a believer in Christ, that’s what I’m here for. And I tell them all the time, if I get on you, I’m not calling you out, I’m calling you up.”

Williams has long been outspoken about his faith, even in the midst of tragedy. His wife Ingrid passed away from injuries suffered in a car crash in 2016 and he shared a powerful message of forgiveness at her funeral. Three of the couple’s five children were in the car at the time and survived.

In September 2019, Williams came on the Sports Spectrum Podcast and discussed how he continued to trust in God as he mourned.

β€œ[God] is good,” Williams said. β€œHe 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.”

He was also featured in the Winter 2019 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine.

Williams’ impact on the Suns organization in just his second season at the helm has not gone unnoticed. The National Basketball Coaches Association recognized Williams as its coach of the year in May and he finished just behind Tom Thibodeau in NBA Coach of the Year voting.

Phoenix now waits to see whether the Milwaukee Bucks or Atlanta Hawks will advance out of the East. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for July 6.

RELATED STORIES:
β€”Β Suns head coach Monty Williams ‘grateful to God’ for relationship with Chris Paul
β€” Suns enter playoffs behind Christ-following coach Monty Williams after 10-season drought
β€”Β Coach Monty Williams delivers heartfelt speech after Suns go 8-0 in NBA bubble
β€”Β Phoenix Suns name Monty Williams, ‘a high-character individual,’ as their next head coach
β€” 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams: ‘I need the Lord because I don’t have it together’