May 03, 2019
The Sixers will have another assistant coach to replace after this season is over. Top assistant Monty Williams has accepted a job as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, a deal that will supposedly run for five years according to reports from The Athletic's Shams Charania.
It will not impact Philadelphia in the playoffs, as the press release from the Suns made sure to note that Williams will not take over as head coach of the Suns until after the Sixers' season has concluded. That's a good place to start from the Philadelphia perspective because it allows them to preserve some continuity during a playoff run.
What impact this has on the Sixers is a bit difficult to pin down. When Williams was brought in last summer, the assumption at the time was that he would take over as the lead defensive coach after Lloyd Pierce left for Atlanta. It didn't play out that way, with Williams taking over "special teams" (ATO's, out of bounds plays) and Billy Lange making the switch from offense to defense. Even when Lange left to take the St. Joe's job, the Sixers decided to bring Jim O'Brien out of an advisory role to organize the defense in the playoffs.
So while Williams is the biggest name on Philadelphia's staff, he is not necessarily in the biggest role as it pertains to the gameday coaching responsibilities.
That said, Williams has a reputation as a relationships guy, and that was the first place Brett Brown went when discussing Williams' future during a conference call with reporters on Friday.
"Anybody that sort of pays attention even a little bit understands that he's elite people," Brown says. "I think he's prideful in studying how to be an NBA coach with all the people he's been around...I think the time he spent with USA Basketball — from a coaching perspective and a relational perspective, with some of those NBA All-Stars and gold medalists — that environment is priceless."
It will be interesting to see how Williams is able to impact the Suns as a head coach because in some respects, his reputation outranks his on-court results up until this point. He had a pair of playoff appearances on either end of his tenure in New Orleans, driven by individual stars (Chris Paul, Anthony Davis) with limited supporting casts. The Suns have some interesting young talent, but instability and their own defensive holes have killed them for years.
That's where I'm most interested to see Williams go to work. He struggled to build a defense in New Orleans despite coming in with a reputation as a defensive-minded coach, and the Suns have been as bad as it gets on that end of the floor, finishing bottom-three in defense each of the last three seasons. Williams will get his chance to prove that is personnel driven, and we'll see what he has learned in the four years since he last sat in a head coaching chair.
It does say something about the program the Sixers have built that they have "graduated" coaches into bigger and better positions with regularity over the last few years. Williams' reputation was ironclad before he ever arrived in Philly, but the franchise's ability to lure and/or reload coaching depth is a good reflection on the franchise, whether you think it's about the appeal of working with Brett Brown or the roster on hand.
Best wishes to Williams, who manages to be a good guy in a cutthroat industry, which is not always easy to do.
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