The Phoenix Suns just set a franchise record with 64 wins and are the overwhelming #1 seed in the NBA Playoffs while dealing with a number of distractions that would have derailed most any team’s season:
- ‘Disease of me’ that usually hits an overnight sensation after a summer off
- Getting every opponent’s best every night
- Allegations of racism and misogyny hanging over the team’s owner the whole season (they were 3-3 when the story broke) that still hangs over everyone’s head
- Month+ injuries to six of their top seven players, 3rd-most impactful games lost to injury/COVID in the entire league
Despite those hurdles, the Suns dominated the season: best home record, best road record, best clutch record, best net rating, etc. etc. They finished the season with an 8 game lead over the second-best Memphis Grizzlies and, as such, will be an overwhelming favorite in every playoff series this offseason.
Williams wins peer vote for COACH OF THE YEAR
To wit, for the second year in a row, NBA head coaches have made the easy decision to vote Suns coach Monty Williams as their Coach of the Year.
ESPN Sources: The Phoenix Suns’ Monty Williams - architect of the NBA’s best regular-season team - has been voted the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year for a second consecutive time: https://t.co/YQHfNsIO7m— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 12, 2022
Six head coaches received votes from their peers. In addition to Williams, the following Head Coaches also received votes [listed alphabetically]: Willie Green, New Orleans Pelicans; Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies; Tyronn Lue, Los Angeles Clippers; Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs; and Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat.
“Congratulations to Monty Williams on winning the Michael H. Goldberg Award for a second consecutive season,” said Indiana Pacers Head Coach and NBCA President Rick Carlisle. “Each of his three seasons with the Suns has produced a double-digit increase in wins from the previous year, which is extraordinarily difficult to do. Congratulations again to Monty and his entire staff on a repeat of this most prestigious recognition by his peers.”
“I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be recognized by my peers and receive the Michael H. Goldberg Coach of the Year Award from the NBCA,” said Phoenix Suns Head Coach Monty Williams. “The coaches in our league sacrifice so much to serve their teams, and there are so many outstanding coaches deserving of this honor. It is incredibly humbling to again receive this recognition from this group, for whom I hold the utmost respect. Thank you to my fellow coaches and to everyone at the NBCA…you guys deserve an award for the work that you do for us and our families.”
MEDIA, HOWEVER, MIGHT GO A DIFFERENT DIRECTION
And yet, for the second year in a row, the award-voting national media might pass over Williams for another hot coach with a more fun storyline.
Don’t overthink this, award-voting media!
Head coach Monty Williams is the reason the Suns not only survived all those distractions but dominated them.
A year ago, the same voting media failed to recognize Williams as the best coach because they couldn’t decide whether more credit should go to him or Chris Paul for the Suns 51-21 season and #2 overall playoff seed after a 10-year playoff drought.
They instead gave the award to Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks because he helped the Knicks win 41 games and nab the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference without an MVP caliber player. The Knicks had previously been awful, had not made the playoffs in seven straight years until Thibs arrived.
You see, that’s the ridiculous part. They literally did that while knowing that Monty Williams won more games (51 to 41), finished with a higher seed (2nd to 5th) with the SAME NUMBER of All-NBA players (1) and a longer period of ineptitude to overcome (10 to 7).
The Suns are now only the third team in NBA history to post 10+ more victories each season for three consecutive seasons: 19 to 34 to 51 to 64. Those last three are on Monty.
This year is Monty’s crowning achievement to date.
No team has ended the season with a lead over the next-best team by 8+ games since the 1999-2000 Lakers. Before that, only two Bulls teams (1995-95 and 1991-92) and the 1983-84 Celtics did it. Only the 1991-92 Bulls had a lead GREATER than the Suns 8 game lead at the end of the regular season.
How is that NOT a complete justification to vote Monty Williams for Coach of the Year?
The argument against: other coaches did more with less
The other candidates at the top of media’s lists include Taylor Jenkins (Memphis), Erik Spoelstra (Miami) and J.B. Bickerstaff (Cleveland).
If your criteria of ‘more with less’ consists of an evaluation of how they played vs. how many injuries they dealt with, here you go:
Monty Williams (Suns)
- 64 wins, most in league
- +13 wins over preseason Vegas odds
- 2 All-Stars, missed 32 games combined (average: 15.5)
- Injuries/COVID: 6 of top-7 players missed at least 14 games (average: 18.3)
Taylor Jenkins (Memphis)
- 56 wins, 2nd-most in league
- +15 wins over preseason Vegas odds
- 1 All-Star, missed 25 games
- Injuries/COVID: 2 of top-7 players missed double-digit games (Dillon Brooks: 50 games missed)
Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
- 53 wins, tied for 3rd most in league
- +5 wins over preseason Vegas odds
- 3 All-Stars (1 in 2022), missed 70 games combined (average: 23.3)
- Injuries/COVID: 6 of top-7 players missed at least 14 games (average: 27.5)
J.B. Bickerstaff (Cavaliers)
- 44 wins, tied for 14th-most in league
- +17 wins over preseason Vegas odds
- 2 All-Stars, missed 41 games combined (average: 20.5)
- Injuries/COVID: 6 of top 7 players missed at least 14 games (average: 36.3)
All four coaches have dealt with their All-Stars and supporting players missing time and have handled that to varying degrees. We could compare actual records while stars were out, but that data is very messy because of the varying levels of overlapping injuries and the strength of their opponent on each night in terms of their own rest disadvantage, talent and missed games.
And these aren’t the only coaches who had to deal with major injury issues. Frank Vogel got fired because he couldn’t coach a winner out of the Lakers while missing big chunks of his stars this year (2 All-NBA greats missed a combined 68 games). Tyronn Lue squeaked out a winning record with the Clippers despite missing Kawhi Leonard all year and Paul George for most of it. Doc Rivers in Philadephia (51 wins) dealt with the Ben Simmons drama turned James Harden drama. Steve Nash in Brooklyn (44 wins) dealt with the Kyrie Irving, James Harden AND Ben Simmons drama. The list goes on.
Yet those very coaches, collectively, agree that Monty Williams deserves their coaching association’s Coach of the Year vote.
So why do the media (probably...potentially...) feel different?
We’ll find out when the media votes are released in a week or two.
And why does it matter?
Because, for some reason, the collection of media voted awards — MVP, DPOY, All-NBA, All-Defense, 6MOY, COY, etc. — are the awards everyone remembers. If you don’t believe me, look no further than Coach of the Year. All a y’all know Thibs got it last year, and that was the media one.
Anyway, congrats to Coach Monty for winning the one that REALLY matters: the one that his peers collectively thought he deserved.