No one has officially been hired to the staff of new Suns coach Monty Williams, but his imprint is nevertheless being scratched onto the foundation of the organization.
Veteran wing Willie Green, who after 12 years in the NBA became an assistant with the Warriors and coached in the past three NBA Finals, played for Williams in New Orleans for one season way back in 2011. That relationship, as with the one Williams forged with general manager James Jones years before that season in New Orleans, is paying dividends for the Suns right now.
Golden State hired Green in 2016 following a journeyman career playing in the league. Green had big shoes to fill, as his offer came as a result of the departure of Luke Walton to coach the Los Angeles Lakers.
Initially, Green was not on the bench with Steve Kerr, Ron Adams, and the Warriors’ historic staff. He created scouting reports, dissected film with players, and scrimmaged and trained during practices, according to a Mercury News story from last summer. Yet at the Las Vegas Summer League in 2018, Green was elevated to coach the Warriors’ exhibition squad, working with players like Damian Jones and Jacob Evans. Golden State staff saw much of Steve Kerr, even in Green’s first go-round calling the shots.
“He’s a head coach in our league,” Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser told the Mercury News. “He has a great pedigree. He has a really good feel. He has an emotional intelligence. He relates to players and he’s learning from one of the best in our business with Steve. He’s in a great position.”
This season, Green was officially listed as a player development coach for the Warriors, and closely worked with DeMarcus Cousins during the big man’s recovery from a torn Achilles tendon.
It’s clear based on Green’s progression up the ranks in Golden State that the NBA lifer is a great strategic and skills coach in addition to developing relationships well. His connection to Williams as a player under the Suns’ new head coach only makes the fit better.
Three seasons seems a short time to go from player development practitioner to lead assistant if that is indeed the position for which he is being considered in Phoenix, but it’s not out of the ordinary for Warriors coaches to jump up more rapidly because of the prolific success of the team. Walton, most notably, did the same.
Finding a player-development focused coach who still has the reputation of being a winner is tough. Williams carries that weight because of his time with New Orleans as well as stops as an assistant on top-level playoff teams. Green’s time with the Warriors runs the gamut of experiences for an assistant coach.
Adding Green to a list that already reportedly included Steve Blake shows the continuing focus on experienced winning players that Jones and Williams are trying to cultivate in Phoenix.