Call it a “hard sell,” a change of heart or even a revolution.
The Suns just hired the most-coveted coach on the market. After Phoenix locked in 76ers assistant Monty Williams on a five-year deal to replace Igor Kokoskov as head coach of the Suns, details emerged of how much of a commitment general manager James Jones and managing partner Robert Sarver made to Williams in his second interview this week.
According to Stadium’s Shams Charania, the tone of Williams’ second interview is what sealed the deal.
“Sarver started to admit some of the past mistakes of his franchise,” Charania said in a video.
Charania mentioned that Sarver gave Williams a vision for why he believes in the new braintrust led by Jones.
“Sarver started to admit some of the past mistakes of his franchise…”— Stadium (@Stadium) May 3, 2019
NBA Insider @ShamsCharania on Monty Williams’ turning point meeting with Suns owner Robert Sarver, before agreeing to a five-year deal.@StateFarm // #HereToHelp pic.twitter.com/B4oGvWGUKx
On 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Friday morning, Jones agreed that Sarver operated differently in this process than he had in the past.
“Like everything, Robert’s demonstrated tremendous growth,” Jones said. “Robert isn’t the Robert from 10 years ago. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the franchise move forward ... I don’t think anyone can say Robert is the same Robert from five years ago.”
As for what stuck out to Jones about Williams (other than having played for the coach when he was an assistant in Portland back in 2007 and VP Jeff Bower’s past relationship with him), Jones said Williams’ breadth of experience across the NBA and ability to adapt was key.
“He understands that through work you have mistakes, and that players grow and just as players grow, coaches have to grow and he’s open to that,” Jones said. “He’s a very even-keeled but passionate coach. He’s a people person and he understands the individual and he understands the player.”
Reading between the lines, it’s clear Williams was a leading candidate early in the process in part because of how different he was from Kokoskov. That feels like the right way to approach the decision — if you’re going to make a change, then really make a change.
Though Sarver seems to have promised a hands-off approach, Jones said it was reductive to say Williams won’t be treated as a member of the overall group the Suns are building.
“People love the phrase autonomy but this is a team, and when you’re part of a team, you make decisions together that help put the team in the best position,” Jones said.
In fact, Jones said Williams asked Suns brass whether there would be a commitment to winning and allowing him as coach to develop the right kinds of habits, and both Jones and Sarver convinced him of it.
It was the New York Times’ Marc Stein who called Sarver’s push for Williams a “hard sell” and indeed it appears to be what sealed the deal for the Lakers’ top target.
Beyond the lure of coaching Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, Monty Williams surely knew he could not count on the same Lakerland buy-in he expects to get in Phoenix. So today he gave the Suns the "yes" they were hoping for since owner Robert Sarver's' hard sell Wednesday night— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 3, 2019
Finally, Jones said Devin Booker’s perspective on how he is handling the responsibility of being a franchise player and what he needs to continue to grow was important in the search.
“We’re building forward, we’re building the right type of environment, so that players will develop and a culture will grow,” Jones said. “That demonstrates that we’re going in a different direction.”