Phoenix Suns fire coach Monty Williams after four seasons
In the aftermath of a blowout elimination loss in the Western Conference semifinals, the Phoenix Suns fired coach Monty Williams on Saturday night, the team announced.
New Suns owner Mat Ishbia made the decision to dismiss Williams immediately after Thursday night’s Game 6 loss to the Denver Nuggets and had general manager James Jones called him on Saturday night and deliver the news, sources said.
Williams won an NBA Coach of the Year award and reached the NBA Finals while helping to resurrect the franchise from one of the league’s laughingstocks into the winningest team in the NBA over the past three seasons.
The pressure on Williams increased from the moment Ishbia engineered the trade deadline deal for Kevin Durant in February, shortly after Ishbia’s ownership group was approved by the league’s Board of Governors.
Ishbia had never warmed to Williams as his coach and decided quickly after Thursday night’s season-ending loss that he would fire him, sources said. Jones has long been an advocate and ally to Williams, but was quoted in the team’s news release on Saturday night saying that “it was difficult for me to make this decision.”
The Suns played without two starters — guard Chris Paul and center Deandre Ayton — in the 125-100 elimination loss. The Suns also got blown out in the last game of their season in 2022, a 123-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.
Williams took responsibility for Thursday’s loss to Denver.
“I take that personally, not having our team ready to play in the biggest game of the year,” Williams said. “That’s something that I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen. … That’s something I have to take a deep look at, everything I’m doing.”
There is no clear front-runner to replace Williams, sources said.
Williams had three years and more than $20 million left on his contract, sources told ESPN. He is expected to become a prominent candidate in coaching searches elsewhere in the league, especially the Toronto Raptors‘, sources said.
The Suns will join a coaching marketplace that includes the Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons. The Raptors’ and Bucks’ searches are wide open, and Detroit has narrowed its search to three finalists — Kevin Ollie, Milwaukee associate head coach Charles Lee and New Orleans Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins — sources said.
The Suns have two stars — Devin Booker and Durant — under contract but are challenged with a massive payroll that could limit their ability to add quality depth under the rules in the new collective bargaining agreement. Ishbia traded four future unprotected first-round picks and a pick swap along with Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets in February, a move that limits Phoenix’s flexibility in team building.
Williams was 194-115 (.628) in the regular season and 27-19 in the playoffs for Phoenix. The Suns won a franchise record 64 games in 2021-22 and reached the NBA Finals in 2021.