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Monty Williams on Suns’ coaching additions, motivation for new season

Phoenix’s coach said the team would go over its goals once it meets before its first practice

NBA: Finals-Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said during the the team’s Media Day before training camp on Monday.

On his expectations for the team:

“I mean, we hadn’t even talked about that as a team yet. We’ll talk about it later today when we meet for the first time. I’m sure your natural inclination is to do everything you can to get back where you just left, but that’s, in my mind, something that you can’t do. We just want to, one, do what we’ve always done, take it step-by-step. Have our focus on having a good camp, playing well, getting back to the playoffs. That’s something that’s been a solid foundational focus for us since we’ve been here. But I do understand the natural inclination to go there. I just can’t as a coach.”

On the health of Suns starting shooting guard Devin Booker, who tested positive for COVID-19:

It’s just part of the deal. I can’t say much about it. We’ve already put out a statement, but when a guy like Book misses a few days or whatever the case may be, I don’t concern myself too much with it. I’ve talked to him a few times, and you guys know Book. He just wants to hoop. He’ll get back as soon as he can and he knows what we do. He’ll fit seamlessly into camp, and we’ll go from there.”

On the Suns having a short offseason:

We’ve had a short offseason, but we put up a sign in the practice site that short breaks are earned. We’ve earned the right to have a short break, and we have to embrace that. We obviously are going to be smart, conditioning and getting guys back into game shape. But we embrace where we are, and yet we also understand that we have to look at our guys in practice, listen to our strength and conditioning team and make sure everybody’s doing well from a conditioning standpoint. I had a really good talk with Jae, because he’s gone deep twice. And we talk about the emotional toll of it all more so than the physical toll. So yeah, we’ve had a short break, but that’s what you want. And I hope that’s something that happens around here for a long time.”

On his plans to rest players due to a short offseason:

I mean, we got together as a staff a few weeks ago to come up with a plan, but as you go along, you modify that plan based on what you need to do and what needs to get done for certain players. Some of our young guys, they can go all day, never have an issue. But we do have a few older guys that have had some long seasons. We’re going to be as smart as we can with those guys.”

If there is a possibility for a Finals hangover in the team’s younger players:

I wouldn’t assume that any of our guys feel that way, just talking to them throughout the summer. I think they’re just hungry to get better. I don’t think we have those kinds of players. But if it did come up, we’d talk about it. It’s new for everybody — not just the young players on our team, it’s a new position for me. I’ve never gone through that. So I’m not an authority on it, but I don’t believe we have those kinds of guys that would rest on what they’ve done. They should, obviously, feel good about it. But I don’t think anybody’s drunk off of that at all. I think our guys, if I had to guess, which I don’t like doing but if I had to guess, I think they’re hurt more than anything. That’s going to drive them to get better in their personal games and as a team, to hopefully get back there some day.”

On the addition of veteran backup center JaVale McGee:

“I think anybody who’s been through those types of experiences can convey that in a way that coaches can’t. We value that. Chris brought that last year, Jae brought it, Torrey brought some of it with his playoff experiences. I don’t know specifically, but I’m sure everything I’ve heard about JaVale and my conversations with him have been somewhat in that vain. But I try not to choreograph that at all — I think it happens on the plane, in the hotels, after practice in organic conversations. But he has those experiences, for sure. And that’s what we talked about when we asked him to come partner with us here, was those experiences, what he went through on the Olympic team. I think all that stuff can help our squad.”

On the Suns’ new coaching staff additions:

We keep losing guys, which is pretty cool. I’m blown away at the opportunities that guys have received. Willie being a head coach two years on the bench, that’s pretty cool, unheard of. We had to regroup quickly, and one of the questions was about the short break. That was a huge part of the short break, was trying to bring in that we thought would be a good fit but also challenge me and help me grow as a coach. Because it was such a short break, it was a lot harder to talk to people that I really didn’t know. That probably lended itself to me leaning towards guys I was familiar with but also guys that had done a good job away from our program and guys that I knew would challenge, help our team grow. (Assistant) [Brian] Gates is a guy that I worked with along with (assistant) [Michael Ruffin]. (Assistant Steve) Scalzi, I worked with him in OKC. I wasn’t as close to him, but I watched him. So when we had a chance to bring him on, I was like, ‘Here’s a guy that would fit and help our program grow.’ So I think the short offseason kind of forced me to do that, and James and I targeted a bunch of guys. But we narrowed it down to the group that we had. And they were crazy enough to come and work with us, and we’re glad to have them and their families. Because that was the cool part — a lot of them have kids, Ruff has like 26 kids man. B-Gates has triplets, Scalzi has a few. B-Gates’ kids, I remember holding Kendall, premature. I held her in my hand. So to see this kids in our program and running around our gym is going to be pretty cool. So long-winded, but I give the tasks to the kids that we get a chance to be around, because the decisions I make affect families, you know what I’m saying? So careful about the people you bring in, because things I do can affect their lives. So it forces you to work harder.”

On adding Jarrett Jack to the coaching staff:

“Jarett’s just one of those guys that just has it. When I look at Jarrett and Willie (Green, who left for New Orleans as head coach), I think of guys and players that are way smarter than I am. And I don’t say that to come off with that fake humility nonsense, I say it straight, I was with Jarrett in Portland. And I’ve watched him over the course of his career, he and Willie impressed me with their balance of acumen and ability to relate to players, work ethic, all that stuff. So when we had a chance to get him, it was a no-brainer for us. And he’s had a huge impact on our gym. The few weeks he’s been here, he’s been really good for us.”

On former player development coach Riccardo Fois leaving the program to be an assistant coach at Arizona:

“It was horrible. I hope he destroys that program down there in Arizona. Riccardo is just like, you could not get him to leave the gym. I’d come at a crazy hour, nine, 10 o’clock at night with my boys, and Ricardo’s in the gym with a player. And I’m like, ‘Oh, you don’t have anybody in your life that can get you out of the gym.’ (big laughter) You know what I’m saying? We’re going to miss that, and the good point about our staff, you start losing Ricardo, you start losing coaches like that, you think you start to target guys that can fill that void. Not necessarily exactly like them, because we don’t need that. But what Ricardo brought was a work ethic, relatability. The players loved him, and accessibility. You could call him at two o’clock in the morning to get shots and watch film and he’d beat you to the gym. He’s going to be an asset to that program at AU, for sure, but we’re going to miss him.”

On his faith in his coaching:

“I think the biggest thing about my faith is that I’m just not all that. I’m a part of a plan and an assignment that is much bigger than basketball, for sure. I try to coach that way or have that mindset when I do coach. The Lord has been so good to me to allow me to be in this position as long as I have been, to be in the NBA. This is 25-plus years, and I know I don’t deserve that. It’s not who I am. It humbles me, for sure. When I study the Bible, I realize that I’m not all that. It forces me to lay my life down for the staff and players, because that’s what I’m called to do. This summer really helped me when we lost, because I was in a pity party for about two weeks, man. It was bad. Like internally sad, pouty. But a lot of reflection, a lot of prayer, a lot of studying to get back to this place of understanding how blessed I am. I tell the players all the time, this is a, ‘Get to,’ not a, ‘Got to.’ I just went to pout mode when we lost. And I realized when I was in Texas, feeding my deer and fishing a little bit on our property over there, it’s like, ‘Man, I get to be in the Finals.’ We didn’t win, but I got to be in that position. I get to work with our players, and all of that. It’s a huge, huge blessing, and I kind of lost sight of that because we lost, if I deserved to win because I earned some right. So that’s where my faith plays a huge role in all of this.”

Monty on handling the sadness of losing the Finals, in the few weeks after

“For me, it’s probably just internal. A lot more quiet, my kids can tell, and then I just work. I was at our property in Texas, we just brought a small piece of property and put a house on it. And I was there, just building rock walls, cutting more grass than I should have. Just doing a lot of stuff outside. Trying to be productive and not take that stuff out on my family, because it’s easy to do. Our business is so intoxicating, winning is intoxicating, and I realized how selfish it was for me to think that way, that I deserved to win. And I needed time to process that. I was just doing a bunch of stuff at our property — fishing, hanging out. But also working in the yard, trying to stay out of my family’s way.”

Did he do any basketball related things in the offseason?

“Not so much. My boys play, so I’m outside with them a lot, working on their stuff and watching them. I get a lot of joy just out of watching my boys play. So I try to help them without harming them, which doesn’t always work out. I get a lot of rolled eyes my way from time to time with stupid drills I come up with for my boys. You have to take a break, but I don’t think any of us coaches totally turn it off. It’s what I love to do.”

On how to approach this season with an expectation of making the Finals again:

“I think it’s always step-by-step, process oriented. I think if you, at least in my mind, think you deserve the right to go back to the Finals, that’s irresponsible. For us, it can go back to ground zero if you don’t skip steps. Try to have a great meeting tonight with the players, communicate the message for the season and then try to have the best camp that we can have. Listen to the players as we get ready for our preseason games, and then step-by-step, we’ll go through the season the best way we know how. But the focus is always on a championship. I think everybody feels that way, but our process is maybe different.”