From the sound of it, Monty Williams is leading the charge when it comes to putting together his own coaching staff.
That’s a luxury that hasn’t been afforded to most Suns coaches the past few years, and likely a byproduct of finally hiring a head coach with prior experience.
After his introductory press conference Tuesday, Williams called assembling a staff his first priority.
“The guys that we’ve targeted are smarter than I am,” Williams said. “They’re bright guys who’ve been around the league, some have played ... I’m really excited about our staff, and they wanted to be here.”
He emphasized that last part, and he was right to do so. The fact that assistants were eager to join Williams’ bench shows not only the connections he holds around the NBA but what his presence is doing already to help legitimize Phoenix.
Reportedly, he is targeting former Portland guard Steve Blake in addition to Nets scout Randy Ayers and Thunder assistant Mark Bryant.
There were murmurs throughout Igor Kokoskov’s one season with the Suns that the rookie NBA head coach did not put together his staff, led by lead assistant Joe Prunty. Prior to Kokoskov’s tenure, Earl Watson simply inherited the staff he once belonged to and saw Jay Triano installed as the Xs and Os brain to help balance Watson’s inexperience. When Watson was fired less than 18 months later, Triano suffered through the same transition that left him without much support from a small staff he didn’t hire.
It’s easy to say the change of head coaches has been hard on the players, but the parade of assistants can’t be helpful either for Devin Booker and Co. It’s a huge upgrade, then, for Williams to join the hiring process for the guys who will support him this season. That relationship will build between coaches and ideally trickle down to players, creating a sense of understanding and alignment absent from this franchise for years.
Giving the head coach breathing room to hire trusted partners is something I was advocating for before Kokoskov departed. It just makes sense. The degree to which relationships and trust play a role in sports means being connected with the people on a team on a personal level will be a huge leg up for those who develop those connections.
One thing we can say less firmly is that Williams’ freedom to put together his staff may signal already a step back from Robert Sarver.
The turnover on the bench can likely be attributed in part to dissatisfaction on his part with the performance of the coaching staff year after year. The guys hired alongside Williams could be destined for the same fate, but as Williams said, the big difference is he says they want to be here and he is hiring them.
The direction of the Suns won’t improve because of a single sweeping change overnight. Instead, it will be as a result of several smaller steps in the right direction by everyone in the organization. Williams’ presence already seems to have head a clarifying effect on basketball operations.
They got their guy, and they’re letting him get to work.