The Phoenix Suns fired Monty Williams on Saturday after the 52-year-old spent four seasons at the helm of the franchise.
“Monty has been foundational to our success over the past four seasons,” said James Jones, the president of basketball operations and general manager of the Suns. “We are filled with gratitude for all that Monty has contributed to the Suns and the Valley community.”
The Suns have a 2-0 lead in the 2021 NBA Finals, but have lost just six games. They’ve lost in the second round in each of the last two seasons, both times in embarrassing home finales – last year in Dallas, this year in Denver.
“This day feels good,” Williams said after the loss earlier this week to Denver, when asked to compare last season’s reverse to this year’s season-ending loss.
The Suns have yet another high-profile coaching opening, after Toronto fired Nick Nurse and Milwaukee fired Mike Budenholzer. Nurse won the 2019 NBA title with the Raptors, while Budenholzer was the coach who overcame a 2-0 lead over Phoenix in the 2021 finals.
It is the second major move the Suns have made in the three months or so since new owner Mat Ishbia closed the sale that gave him control of the club. In February, Ishbia green-lighted a blockbuster trade that brought Kevin Durant to Phoenix and gave the Suns a core — he, Devin Booker, former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul — that the team had hoped would be enough. to give a title.
It just didn’t work, at least, not this year. Paul was hurt in the playoffs to continue his bad luck on the health front in the postseason, Ayton sat out the finale and Booker and Durant looked gassed when it was over.
Williams, after the season, blamed himself.
“I take that personally, not having our team ready to play the biggest game of the year,” he said. “That’s something I’m proud of myself for and it just didn’t happen. That’s something I have to take a hard look at, everything I do.”
Williams is the coach with the fifth longest tenure with his current team entering Saturday – just four years. Gregg Popovich has been the coach of San Antonio since 1996, Erik Spoelstra of Miami since 2008, Steve Kerr of Golden State since 2014 and Michael Malone of Denver since 2015.
Of the last nine coaches to bring a team to the NBA Finals, only Kerr and Spoelstra are still in the franchise that they won the title series.
Others – Boston’s Ime Udoka, Los Angeles Lakers’ Frank Vogel, Cleveland’s David Blatt and Tyronn Lue, along with Budenholzer, Nurse and now Williams have all been fired from the team they took to the finals.
“When you look at really good coaches who lose their jobs shortly after winning a championship, that’s something that’s different from our business,” Williams said Friday, adding that ” it’s just part of our NBA economy”.
The Suns hope to avoid that path as they start 16-7 this season, looking like a contender again. But they were only 29-30 the rest of the way.
They used 26 starting line-up combinations, and only had Durant in eight regular-season games after the trade. They had to wait about a month after taking him out for a knee injury in January to heal, and then while he was warming up for what was supposed to be his home opener with the Suns on March 8 he fell on the court during the season. to heat, hurt. an ankle and failed for three more weeks.
Williams was second in the official NBA coach of the year voting in 2021, behind New York’s Tom Thibodeau, and the coach of the year at that time as chosen by his peers in the National Basketball Coaches Association.
A year later, Williams was the winner of the NBA – and the NBCA one again. Now, he is gone, and the Days begin again.