During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Philadelphia 76ers looked completely outmatched against the Toronto Raptors. However, the script flipped in Game 2 behind some great adjustments from head coach Brett Brown and his coaching staff, including leading Suns candidate Monty Williams.
Heading back to the Philadelphia with the series tied 1-1, Williams still hasn't been hired by the Lakers or Suns. Instead, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Suns owner Robert Sarver and GM James Jones met with Williams for a second time on Wednesday but yet again didn’t offer him the job.
Sources: Phoenix owner Robert Sarver met with Sixers assistant Monty Williams in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Williams remains Suns top target to hire as head coach, but no offer has been yet extended. Williams remains in talks for Lakers job, vying with Ty Lue.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 2, 2019
That’s now two meetings Williams has concluded with both Los Angeles and Phoenix where a job wasn’t offered on any occasion. The question now should begin to be asked, at least in my opinion, if Williams is instead looking further down his own bench right now.
Brown’s job seems safe right now in Philadelphia, but what if the Raptors win the next three games, two of which are at home, and win the series in only five games?
There have been rumblings for months now that if Brown wasn’t able to lead this top-notch roster deep into the playoffs, he would be out of a job after six seasons with the organization. And honestly, those should be the expectations from Philadelphia’s ownership when the roster features Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick on it.
If the doomsday scenario occurs for the Sixers and they can’t stop Toronto’s trio of Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry anymore, there will likely be wholesale changes for them. One of them would be Brown losing his job. Second would be losing Jimmy Butler and possibly Tobias Harris as well as unrestricted free agents. Quite honestly, this is a make-or-break run for this group.
Sixers GM Elton Brand didn’t hire Brown. Brand played multiple seasons in Philadelphia, but he joined the organization shortly after retirement on December 6, 2016 as a player development consultant. Ten months later, Brand was promoted to GM of their G League affiliate. Then, 11 months after his first promotion, Brand takes over as the overseer of the entire basketball operations following Bryan Colangelo’s burner account bungle.
As you can see, a very quick rise up the ranks mirroring James Jones’ in Phoenix. Brand could also do exactly what Jones did last month: want to hire his own guy. He’s never had the opportunity to do it, and a meltdown against Toronto would be probable cause to finally pull the trigger on Brown’s tenure as head coach.
Less than 10 months ago, Williams was brought on as Brown’s lead assistant. If you connect those dots, if Brand wants to make a change, Williams is the smoothest fit into that new role. The former Hornets/Pelicans head coach wouldn’t have to pack his bags, plus he becomes the lead voice of a Finals contender immediately. That’s very appealing from Williams’ point of view, and it could be even more so than the pitches by the Lakers and Suns.
The firing of Brown, following a Sixers debacle once this story being published, would have ripple effects on the coaching carousel.
Tyronn Lue looks to be the favorite with Williams in Los Angeles due to his prior LeBron James history, so let’s tentatively pencil him in there. If Brown is let go, Williams is the easy answer for Brand to hire his own man and start anew without entirely hitting the reset button. Then, that leaves the Suns out in the cold but Brown is right there for the taking.
It would be a shotgun wedding of sorts, but it could be one of the best fits possible on paper for Phoenix if all of these dominoes fell this exact way. Brown has built up a strong culture in Philadelphia, and there’s been immediate buy-in from players like Embiid and Simmons. From the Suns’ vantage point, Brown checks all the boxes too. He has previous experience and has literally seen it all from rock bottom to Finals contender over the last six seasons.
Another area in Phoenix’s favor is their roster being more appealing than most. There’s a reason Williams is being connected to the Suns over other situations such as Memphis and Cleveland. The ingredients are there for a good, quality coach to cook into an ascending roster. Having pieces like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton matter. If they somehow get lucky in the NBA Draft Lottery and land Zion Williamson to pair with those two, it becomes the most appealing job in the league.
Trust me, it would be an awful look — an egg on the face to the Suns’ front office — if they fired Igor Kokoskov to hire Monty Williams, only for him not to end up here. And it would look even worse if they chose a first-time head coach again. After interviewing Trail Blazers assistants David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts, that door is definitely still open.
That’s not the Plan B option to root for at all, though. If the Suns are unable to land their top target in Williams, it’s likely due to him staying where he is.
The true Plan B should be heading on back to Philadelphia to hire Brown as Phoenix’s hopeful long-term answer at head coach.