The Phoenix Suns’ dismissal of head coach Monty Williams on Saturday evening did more than just open one of the most desirable coaching jobs in the NBA. It signified the end of the organic chemistry era in which Williams presided over and ushered in the mercenary mode that Mat Ishbia desires.
Monty Williams, the man, will be missed dearly. Monty Williams, the coach? There have been generally positive reactions to the news that Williams would no longer be with the team. Well, from everybody but Arizona Sports beat writer Kellan Olson.
-- Stop citing the 2-0 lead in the Finals like that season/result was a negative and at ALL compares to the previous two— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) May 14, 2023
-- Stop comparing him to Mark freaking Jackson
Could have a little more respect for the guy after what he did for your franchise after the state it was in.
Kellan is right to have his guard up with the decision.
It’s not as if the Suns were healthy in their Game 6 loss. It’s not as if they were bumped by a lesser seed. The response to the season ending early by Suns’ brass was quick and harsh, putting the blame on the head coach rather than the decisions that equated to a lack of chemistry on the roster.
If that is the case, if Ishbia and Jones are that quick to move on from Monty, what else could it mean for the franchise? Concern exists that these from-the-belt decisions are a dangerous sign of things to come.
Mat Ishbia pushed his front office to go all-in for Kevin Durant and just canned a coach several teams will likely fight for in the coming days. Ishbia is a far, far better owner than Robert Sarver but his inexperience -- and impatience -- is showing.— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) May 14, 2023
The majority of the fanbase, however, is frustrated.
Ishbia, who has time and again referenced the fan experience as one of his primary objectives to improve within the organization, was in the house for Game 6. He heard the boo’s from the crowd, felt the deflation in the building, and experienced the disappointment that has become the foundation of this franchise. This is Suns basketball and he doesn’t like it. He wants to win.
Two consecutive early exits from the postseason, both in embarrassing fashion, leaves us wanting more. More wins, more success, and more adjustments to achieve them both.
The emotional wound of an early exit is still open and fresh. It’s barely begun to cauterize. Therefore, the actions taken by Mat Ishbia are being applauded. It is a thin line to walk, however, for the team is dangerously close to not being just that: a team.
Ishbia has arrived and instantly demolished the organic chemistry that once made the Suns special. Justified or not, it is true. Whether you believe that he’s made the right decisions or not, it is true. This observation isn’t a debate as to whether or not he should have obtained Kevin Durant or dismissed Monty Williams. It is more an observation of the direction the Suns are headed.
Phoenix was unique as they, for the most part, relied on homegrown talent for their success. Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson were all members of the team that went to the 2021 NBA Finals and won a franchise-record 64 games in 2021-22. All four players were drafted by the Phoenix Suns.
It’s a rare thing to see this day and age, but due to their time spent together, Phoenix possessed a unique organic chemistry. Growing up in the same system together and playing as much basketball as they did with one another, the team knew instinctively where the other would be on the court at all times. They knew, especially from a defensive standpoint, where they could take risks, and where their teammates could support those risks.
On day one, Mat Ishbia and James Jones traded two of the core organic chemistry players to the Brooklyn Nets to get Kevin Durant. It’s a move that you have to do, and if I had the choice on NBA2K, I’d do it 10 out of 10 times.
Despite his elite talent, KD did not get enough playing time to develop any true chemistry with his teammates.
A fractured roster entered the postseason and we witnessed an isolation-heavy offense and a lack of defensive chemistry. Phoenix allowed 116.5 points per game with a defensive rating of 118.3 in the playoffs. In 44 quarters played, they permitted 23 30+ point quarters to the opposition.
The consequence for the totality of the postseason run? Monty is out.
Perhaps it is due to the continual lack of adjustments and the repetitive responses by Williams following catastrophic losses. “I take that personally, not having our team ready to play in the biggest game of the year,” Williams said after losing to Denver in Game 6. “That’s something that I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen.” It’s a record we’ve heard played before.
With Williams’ departure, the Suns are now foundationally a team in flux. Whoever assumes the job will institute their coaching philosophies on both ends of the floor. There will be a learning curve for the players, whoever they might be. Many moves like ahead for the Phoenix Suns.
Mat Ishbia is in the process of building the team in the manner he sees fit. A team in his image, if you will. “New owner syndrome”, a phrase used regularly by The Ringers’ Bill Simmons, is a real thing. When a new owner arrives on the scene, he begins making decisions and changing the direction of the franchise. That is exactly what we are witnessing.
There was an interesting statement made in Adrian Wojnarowski’s piece about Monty’s dismissal.
"Ishbia has fully taken over the franchise's basketball operations."— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) May 14, 2023
Welp here we go https://t.co/UpfTH9fHb5
That phrase has since been removed from Woj’s article.
New owner syndrome activated.
It is my opinion that his decisive actions are positive. Think back to last summer. Phoenix didn’t have much of a chance to improve their overall roster because they were held hostage by the Kevin Durant situation. They couldn’t make any moves. Everyone on their roster potentially was an asset in a Kevin Durant trade, so they sat on their hands for the majority of the off-season, And constructed a roster that was not championship level quality.
Ishbia is a mover and a shaker. He is decisive. Whether you support the decisions or not, there’s no denying that. Monty’s dismal allows the Suns to be ahead of the coaching search, not behind. They will not be held hostage this offseason. They are the ones who knock.
Time will tell if his decisive nature is a positive or negative. Is he someone who believes in culture? Does he believe in developing chemistry? Or is he impulsive? Is he supporting and instituting changes based on his gut? Or is he somebody who is looking for a mercenary for hire to win?
It’s quite the conundrum to ponder. Team chemistry organically grown or NBA2K built rosters?
When you look at recent success in the NBA, it is those teams who have developed chemistry that are successful. Sure, every team adds fringe players to support their roster, but when you look at the two teams that made a trip to the NBA Finals last season – the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics – their core is homegrown. The Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks the year before? For the most part, homegrown.
Currently, the only players on the Phoenix Suns roster, who were drafted by the team are Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
Questions surround Deandre Ayton entering this off-season. Some believe that Monty‘s dismissal will mean that Deandre Ayton will stay. That one of the two in the soured relationship had to go, and Ishbia and Jones chose Ayton.
Time will tell. But the chemistry that this team once possessed is a thing of the past. And Monty Williams’ departure signifies the end of that era Phoenix Suns basketball.
We will know in the coming months and seasons whether or not sacrificing chemistry for building around elite talent is the right move or not. It’s sad to see the chemistry depart but personally I think it’s the right time.
Would I have liked to see what Monty could do with an offseason under his belt and a roster that can support Devin Booker and KD? Sure. I just don’t know if I could go through another one of those pressers after the team came out flat. But again, the wound is still fresh.
Building a contender was the task assigned to Monty. Building a champion will be a task assigned to the next head coach. Whether you agree or not, that is they way it is.