Detroit — He turned the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans into a playoff team during his first stint as a head coach. He transformed a 19-win Phoenix Suns team into a championship contender. Now, Monty Williams will try to restore the Pistons back to their winning ways.
The Pistons are expected to hire 51-year-old former Coach of the Year as their new head coach, a league source confirmed to The Detroit News, almost two months after Dwane Casey transitioned to the front office. The hiring of Williams, who received the job over finalists Kevin Ollie and Charles Lee, was a six-year deal worth $78.5 million, the largest coaching deal in NBA history.
Here are five things to know about Williams:
Basketball coaching credentials
Williams, a native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, got his break as an assistant coach in 2005 under former Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan. He served in that role for five seasons.
The former New Orleans Hornets gave Williams his first head-coaching opportunity in 2010 and he led that team to two playoff appearances in his first and fifth seasons. However, the Hornets-turned-Pelicans struggled and finished last in the Northwestern Division for three consecutive seasons.
Most recently, Williams spent four seasons as coach in Phoenix, where he ushered the franchise back into championship relevance. He compiled a 194-115 (.628) record in the regular season and posted a 27-19 mark in the postseason while at the helm of the Suns. Phoenix won a franchise-record 64 games in 2021-22 and reached the NBA Finals in 2021.
Williams played nine seasons in the NBA from 1994 until 2003. At 6-foot-8, he was selected in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft with the 24th overall pick by the New York Knicks.
He was a first-round pick despite his battle with a pre-existing heart condition that held him out of two seasons at Notre Dame. He played two seasons with the Knicks, three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, one game in Denver, and three seasons with the Orlando Magic before his final season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Williams played in 456 games and scored a total of 2,884 points with an average of 6.3 points per game before he was forced to retire in 2003 due to chronic knee injuries.
Front office background
Williams dabbled into an executive role in 2016 when he became the vice president of basketball operations for the Spurs, where he also served as an intern in the mid-2000s. He is a member of Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree, which includes noteworthy names such as former Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, Houston Rockets coach Ime Udoka and Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy.
Connection to Pistons GM Troy Weaver
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver and Williams have a long history that dates to their days in Oklahoma City. Williams became the associate head coach for the Thunder in 2015 and Weaver served as the vice president/assistant general manager of the franchise that once upon a time held Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden on the same roster. It’s highly likely their relationship played a crucial part in Williams’ expected arrival in Detroit.
The Pistons and Williams don’t have many connections on the surface. He didn’t play in Detroit and he didn’t play under any of the Pistons’ former coaches. However, there is one event from nearly two decades ago that connects the two parties: The 2005 NBA Finals.
Detroit lost a heartbreaking series to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games, which marked the franchise’s last finals appearance. Williams was a coaching staff intern with the Spurs that season, before he embarked on his own coaching journey later that year in Portland.