The first victims in Phoenix are starting to appear after the team’s elimination at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, as the Suns have fired coach Monty Williams this weekend.
Yes, the trainer who brought the Arizona franchise back to the spotlight after decades in the shadows, has now been separated by club owner Mat Ishbia almost immediately after last Thursday’s Game 6 defeat, instructing general manager James Jones to deliver the news.
Breaking: The Suns have dismissed head coach Monty Williams, sources tell @wojespn. pic.twitter.com/7VX0u9FUyK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 14, 2023
Williams had won the NBA Coach of the Year last campaign as the team ended regular season with a franchise record of 64 wins, and only a year before the coach led Phoenix to its first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.
There’s no doubt now that trading in for superstar Kevin Durant was as much a blessing as it was a curse in Arizona, as the pressure around the team mounted as they’d become title-contenders with his acquisition.
Sources suggest that Ishbia never really warmed up to Williams as his team’s coach, even though Jones always shared a strong bond with the trainer. The general manager released a concise statement on Saturday night, saying that “it was difficult for me to make this decision.”
After this past Thursday’s loss to the Nuggets, Monty was the first to take full responsibility.
“I take that personally, not having our team ready to play in the biggest game of the year,” Williams said. “That’s something that I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen. … That’s something I have to take a deep look at, everything I’m doing.”
According to NBA insider Stephen A. Smith, their blowout elimination wasn’t just the coach’s fault, as he assures that the tension with player Deandre Ayton created an uninspiring atmosphere in the Phoenix camp.
“This is the same guy that Monty Williams had a problem with last season that he benched him the postseason for significant minutes,” the NBA analyst recalled.
“I’m going to say something right here, right now for the national airwaves that people might shun at,” Smith said Sunday on ESPN. “Deandre Ayton got Monty Williams fired. I’m going to say that.”
Many names are starting to surface as replacements, while the fans still mourn Monty’s dismissal
Even though there is no clear front-runner to replace Williams up to this point, some names as former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, or even current Clippers trainer Ty Lue have appeared as possible candidates to take the job.
Williams still had three years and more than $20 million left on his contract, according to sources. It’s a given that the coach will probably make his way into another NBA team, as he’s already thought of as a strong candidate to lead rosters like that of the Toronto Raptors, for example.
Fans in Arizona are devastated after the news, but hope this will be an opportunity to grow in the league. “Monty was a coach to bring the suns out of the shadows now we need another coach to lead us to the light,” an account wrote on Twitter.
“Coach of the year and now not good enough to coach a 4th rank team against the number one rank team who has a two time MVP player and you’re missing two key players,” another Twitter post read. “Not to mention 3 straight years of playoff appearance, but suddenly you’re not good enough. Wtf.”
However, other fans are more realistic over the fact the basketball coaching business is brutal.
“Damn man the NBA coaching world is ICE COLD. He made the Suns relevant again. The KD trade gutted their depth. They had barely any time to work out a rhythm. Brutal man,” a fan posted on social media.