As the Detroit Pistons began a search for a new head coach after Dwane Casey announced he was taking a front office position, there were reports from The Athletic that the team would interview high-level assistants, but would also not rush to make a hire. The patience was geared toward seeing if any top coaches in the NBA playoffs were dismissed.
True to form, the Pistons reportedly hired a slew of candidates with top assistants Charles Lee of Milwaukee and Jarron Collins of New Orleans joining Overtime Elite’s Kevin Ollie as the “front-runners.” Also true to form, some of the NBA’s top coaches are getting fired.
First it was Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee and the latest is Monty Williams who is the scapegoat of the Phoenix Suns losing in the conference semi-finals. On the one hand, you can’t fault the Suns for falling to the top-ranked Denver Nuggets behind next-level performances from MVP Nikola Jokic. On the other hand, there is letting your team fall behind by almost 20 after one quarter in an elimination game. Also, when your on Kevin Durant time, the clock ticks faster. Just ask Steve Nash.
The rumors of Williams to Detroit have been persistent, and the vibes just feel right. I can’t think of another head coach who seems so in sync with the way Troy Weaver runs a team, talks about players, and goes about his business. You can throw Dwane Casey into that mix as well.
You can say a lot of positive and negative about all three gentlemen, but one thing for certain is that they would all be speaking the same language and rowing in the same direction.
Williams to Detroit Makes Sense
Already, many in the league are connecting the dots between Williams’ dismissal and the Detroit opening.
James Edwards of The Athletic.
Jazz beat writer at The Athletic Tony Jones:
The pistons should be currently licking the stamp on the envelope of the contract offer they sending to Monty Williams
— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) May 14, 2023
Sam Quinn of CBS Sports:
If I were the Pistons I would get Monty Williams in for an interview tomorrow and try to seal the deal Monday, before the lottery.
I know they already have their finalists, but a proven culture-builder and offensive schemer like Monty would be just perfect for their young team.
— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) May 14, 2023
Sam Vecinie of The Athletic:
Connecting dots here, but Monty Williams was an assistant with OKC when Troy Weaver was with the Thunder before he got the head executive job in Detroit.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) May 14, 2023
Monty the Coach
So what is Monty like as a head coach? If you ask a certain vocal and disgruntled segment of Suns fans, you’d hear he is overrated and maddening and can’t step up in big moments. If you talk to players, you’ll hear about a guy who is easy to get behind because they appreciate his clear communication and his values.
Lucky for us, Damon Allred is not only doing great work writing about the NBA Draft for Detroit Bad Boys, he’s also watched Monty up close and personal for years in Phoenix and will have a story tomorrow breaking down his coaching and how he could fit in Detroit.
I don’t watch that many Suns games, so I lean toward what the stats might be able to tell us. If you look at the stats, you see a consistent high performer on both ends of the floor.
Monty Williams in Phoenix:
Off: 111.7 (12th of 30) Def: 111.4 (17th of 30)
Off: 117.2 (5th of 30) Def: 111.3 (9th of 30)
Off: 114.8 (4th of 30) Def: 107.3 (3rd of 30)
Off: 115.1 (14th of 30) Def: 113.0 (7th of 30)
— Sean Corp (@sean_corp) May 14, 2023
Williams took over a team that struggled to a 19-63 record under Igor Kokoskov behind a 22-year-old Devin Booker and got them to 34-39 in year one. And that was before Chris Paul entered the fold. That team got 15 more wins out of Booker, sophomore year Deandre Ayton, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio leading the teams in shots per game.
He also had a quality track record in New Orleans. He took over a team that finished 37-45. That is, frankly, not bad after dismissing coach Byron Scott nine games into the season and being led the rest of the way by former Pistons GM Jeff Bower. Monty got them to 46 wins in year one, largely behind a defense that went from 21st in the league to 10th.
The Pelicans then traded away four of its top five players in minutes per game, including Chris Paul, as it entered a rebuild. Williams coach them to seasons of 21, 27, 34 and 45 wins. Williams was fired after a power struggle with Dell Demps in New Orleans, but who was there to pick up the pieces?
The Troy Weaver Connection
Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver. Then an assistant GM with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Weaver and company were happy to bring Williams aboard as an associate head coach. Williams, wouldn’t you know it, grew up in the D.C. area and has a history with Weaver.
Sadly, the same season Williams was hired to help lead the Thunder, his wife died suddenly in a car accident. Williams took two season off before joining with the Sixers as an assistant and then ultimately getting the Suns job.
In 2022, Williams was the NBA’s coach of the year and now he’s out of a job. He has more in common with Dwane Casey than I even realized.
What do you think, Pistons fans? Go all in on a veteran coach like Monty Williams or stay the course on a top assistant?