The Suns made a surprising move by parting ways with head coach Monty Williams immediately after their six-game loss to the Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals. The decision, which came following a disappointing 100-125 defeat in Game 6 at home, has sparked speculation and raised eyebrows around the league.
Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s basketball insider, shed light on the situation during his recent commentary. Wojnarowski revealed that the team’s new owner, Mat Ishbia, never truly warmed up to Williams since taking over the franchise. Ishbia played a significant role in negotiating and executing the high-profile trade that brought 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant to Phoenix from the Nets. This move, orchestrated by Ishbia himself, raised expectations and added pressure on the coaching staff.
“Monty Williams, who resurrected this Suns franchise, led them to the NBA Finals and achieved a franchise record of 64 wins two seasons ago,” Wojnarowski explained. “But after that 30-point loss in Game 6 to Denver, it was Mat Ishbia effectively running and overseeing basketball operations. This is a Mat Ishbia production right now.”
Wojnarowski highlighted the risk involved in the decision to let go of Williams, considering his previous accomplishments and the team’s limited options moving forward. Williams, who was named Coach of the Year and guided the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2021, still had three years and over $20 million left on his contract.
“This is a move that comes with risk,” Woj said. “Monty Williams, who resurrected this Suns franchise. They were laughing stock before he took over. Coach of the Year, led them to the NBA Finals, franchise record 64 wins two seasons ago. And then without Chris Paul, without Deandre Ayton in that Game 6 lose to the 1-seed Nuggets. Three years, over $20 million left on that Monty Williams’ contract.”
Furthermore, the Suns’ recent change in ownership has brought both excitement and uncertainty. Ishbia, at just 43 years old, became the second-youngest team owner in league history after purchasing the Suns and the Phoenix Mercury for a record-high $4 billion. The acquisition of Durant further raised expectations, as the Suns’ odds to win the NBA Finals surged following the trade.
With Ishbia now at the helm, the pressure is on to maximize the potential of the star-studded roster, including Durant, Devin Booker, and potentially Chris Paul. Wojnarowski suggested that the Suns will likely pursue established names rather than opting for an assistant coach or someone without head coaching experience. Coaches such as Nick Nurse and Mike Budenholzer, both championship-winning coaches, are among the potential candidates.
“They’re going to pursue big names,” the ESPN insider said. “I don’t think they’re bringing in an assistant coach or somebody who hasn’t been a head coach to coach Durant, Booker, potentially Chris Paul in that team. I think you look at names, potentially Nick Nurse, Mike Budenholzer to start with among coaches who are available and are championship coaches.”
The decision to part ways with Williams underscores the new ownership’s desire to take the Suns to new heights. While it carries risks, Ishbia’s influence over basketball operations suggests a deliberate shift in the organization’s direction. The franchise’s future moves will be closely scrutinized as they seek to build upon their current roster and pursue top-tier talent.