Times have certainly changed for the Phoenix Suns, and in no area is that more apparent than at the head coach position.
On April 23, 2019, the organization parted ways with head coach Igor Kokoshov after one season – 82 total games coached – with the team. This was after the team had bid adieu to Jay Triano – 79 games coached – on April 29, 2018. And Earl Watson on October 22, 2017, just three games into the 2017-18 campaign. 118 games coached. Don’t forget Jeff Hornacek – 213 games coached – prior to Watson.
In short, the Suns had a problem bringing in a head coach who could effectively and successfully execute their vision. From the outside looking in, Phoenix was not a desirable destination, for players and coaches alike.
James Jones officially took over general manager duties on April 11, 2019. Prior to that he had spent time as the vice president of basketball operations and interim general manager following Ryan McDonough’s departure. It was Jones who made the decision to part ways with Kokoskov.
And it is Jones who lured Monty Williams, who many considered a prime candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job, to Phoenix to assume duties for the Suns. Two-and-a-half year later, the Suns have been to the NBA Finals, Monty Williams was voted Coach of the Year by his peers, and he has been named an assistant coach for Team USA Basketball.
Congratulations to @warriors HC @SteveKerr, @Suns HC Monty Williams, & @MiamiHEAT HC @CoachSpo on being selected to coach @usabasketball. Former USA Basketball Head Coach, Gregg Popovich, has won two gold medals, one bronze medal, & has coached six different USA Basketball teams. pic.twitter.com/NuwTm4HyCE— NBA Coaches Assoc. (@NBA_Coaches) December 16, 2021
The culture immediately changed under the 20th coach in Phoenix Suns history. Williams did not enter with an overly impressive resume – he had a .439 winning percentage with New Orleans and a 2-8 playoff record – but it was clear that he had the ear of the players. His affinity for eloquent speaking and motivational “ism’s” soon began to change the product on the court, and after the Orlando Bubble, the Phoenix Suns went from the basement to the penthouse.
His addition to Team USA Basketball fortifies his effectiveness as a coach and the respect he has earned as a man.
Don’t doubt that Devin Booker will once again don the red, white, and blue. And don’t be surprised if Mikal Bridges doesn’t get a nod to join the Team USA team as well. His skillset is highly transferable to international play.
Williams will now have the ear of the NBA’s elite as they prepare for the World Championships and Paris Olympics in 2024. For the Suns, that is not a bad thing. Although there is not a long history of players joining Team USA head coaches in the NBA, it does again solidify Phoenix as a respectable destination.
Congratulations to Monty Williams. Go Team USA!