The Detroit Pistons have made it official: Monty Williams is their new head coach, and he’s not wasting any time.
In a statement released Friday, the team announced that Williams has already started to schedule meetings with players and staff. The team plans to formally introduce the former New Orleans and Phoenix coach to the media next week.
“I couldn’t be more proud to have Monty joining us at this important time to lead us into the next decade of our future,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a release. “He embodies all of the qualities we want in a leader for our Pistons franchise, and most importantly a teacher and mentor for our players. He will have an impact on every aspect of our franchise, on and off the court.
“After spending some time with Monty, it’s clear that he’s found a unique balance between achieving victory at the highest level while at the same time nurturing a culture of growth, development and inspiration,” Gores’ statement continued. “I’m beyond excited. This is a huge win for us.”
The Pistons did not announce the terms of Williams’ contract, but the Free Press learned from a team source that it is the richest in NBA history for a coach, worth $78.5 million guaranteed over six seasons. But there is more.
There are team options for a seventh and eighth season, and added incentives that could push the total value of the contract above $100 million. The base salary for the first six years averages out to $12 million per year ($72 million), and there’s additional guaranteed money tied to the seventh season, whether he returns or not, that brings the total guaranteed to $78.5 million. If the Pistons pick up his seventh-year option, his contract will cross $90 million.
The deal was signed Thursday, according to the team.
“A week ago, I was not sure what the future would hold,” Williams said in the team’s release. “But, after talking with Tom and Troy (Weaver), I was excited hearing their vision for the Pistons going forward. They had a thoughtful plan and I am so appreciative of the emphasis they placed on the personal side of this business. They showed tremendous consideration for me and my family throughout this process.
“They also showed a commitment to success and doing things the right way,” he said. “As we discussed the team and expressed our collective goals, I realized that this would be a great opportunity for me to help a talented young team and build a strong culture here in Detroit. This is obviously a special place with a deep basketball history, and my family and I are looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of this city and organization.”
Williams, a Notre Dame alumnus, has nine seasons as an NBA head coach, compiling a 367-336 (.522) record with the Pelicans (2010-15)and Suns (2019-23) franchises. His teams have five playoff appearances, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2021 and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in 2022. He has also coached in an NBA All-Star Game (2022) and won Olympic gold as an assistant coach for Team USA in 2016.
As a player, Williams spent parts of nine seasons in the NBA after being drafted No. 24 overall in 1994. He averaged 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists over 456 games with the New York Knicks (1994-96), San Antonio Spurs (1996-98), Denver Nuggets (1998-99), Orlando Magic (1999-2002) and Philadelphia 76ers (2002-03). His final NBA appearance came in the 2003 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pistons.
Williams is just a year removed from winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award, after leading the Suns to a franchise-record 64 wins during the 2021-22 season. He was fired by the Suns after a disappointing second-round loss to the Nuggets, who lead the NBA Finals, 1-0.
In the release, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver expressed surprise that Williams was suddenly available midway through the team’s search for a successor to Dwane Casey, who coached the Pistons for five seasons. The Pistons had already interviewed three finalists — New Orleans Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee and former UConn coach Kevin Ollie — to Los Angeles to meet with Gores when Williams entered the market.
“Monty represented the ideal prototype for our young team, but we didn’t expect him to be available,” Weaver said. “When he suddenly became available, we jumped at the opportunity to speak with him. That doesn’t mean the others in our process were not strong candidates. They were. But Monty is the prototype.
“When we set out on this search, we wanted a leader focused on discipline, defense and development,” Weaver said. “His capability, his experience and his philosophy checks all those boxes. He has high character and high conviction. He will be a great leader and mentor for our young core, and given his career as a player, he’ll connect with our veteran players as well.”
Free Press sports writer Omari Sankofa II contributed to this report.