Following a lackluster 2022 season in the desert coaching Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, Monty Williams was viewed as a player-friendly sponge who wanted to build a program the way Mark Jackson did with Golden State.
Of course, both would lose their jobs unable to pull their respected franchises over the hump, but their contribution prior is viewed almost as important as the mark their replacements have made in the present, and it left Williams as a highly sought-after hire to be plucked by the Detroit Pistons.
A young and hungry squad that would need discipline to help build towards a brighter future — the hire made sense — until you lift up the hood and notice the red flags Williams flashed these past couple years. Issues that can be turned around if he takes a look in the mirror.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, these characteristics have already begun to reveal themselves in Year One of a $78.5 million contract. A 2-17 record is already bad, but rumors are beginning to swirl that players aren’t loving Monty. Yikes.
Report: Monty Williams’ use of Jaden Ivey has sparked tension within Detroit Pistons https://t.co/GTBq9dbiqu
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) December 1, 2023
Much has been made already about Monty being the first coach in NBA history to coach a loss-less (Suns) and winning-less month (Pistons), however we’d guess that result has plenty to do with talent. No one can possibly believe the difference between this year and last for Williams is merely X’s and O’s — a team led by Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, who was taken fifth overall in the 2022 draft, is just simply not as qualified as Booker and Durant much further on in their careers to win basketball games. Not to mention the gap in talent between those four to begin with.
The founder of this website, Sam Amico, probably wins a few games coaching last year’s Phoenix Suns given the veteran presence all over the floor. But where the real coaches go to flourish — the Erik Spoelstras, the Phil Jacksons, the Gregg Popoviches of the world, is how they prepare players that otherwise couldn’t do it themselves.
What happens when a player who’s perceived as one of the best players on the team needs to come off the bench to maximize his future impact surging his development? Is that being communicated in a way that’s received by a young player, or will a coach inked to a massive contract just do what he wants treating players as inferiors because he feels some level of contractual security?
Recent reports suggest Pistons young stud Jaden Ivey hasn’t been utilized the way he expected to be and it’s apparently creating tension in the locker room. Of course, there’s no telling how players actually feel and we’d have to imagine it’s not as bad as it appears this early on. So we’ll try our best to let this slide.
The red flags
Remember when the Phoenix Suns were expected to shop Deandre Ayton last off-season and reports surfaced that Williams was all for the move? What successful coach in the history of any league actively voiced excitement to move on from a potential max player and went on to win? Getting along with your players seems much like a prerequisite to success in a player’s league — and yes, even when the player is a big man with no motor in a sport run by guards.
The Suns would eventually match a max offer sheet for Ayton … and Williams failed to attend the press conference or even send a text congratulating Ayton. Common sense to play nice with a player you’ll need to win games down the stretch, right? Of course. He’s expected to be in the trenches with you going forward so this player having some level of emotional attachment to his coach would be a solid plan of attack.
Now here we are with the Pistons losing every game imaginable and Williams will be faced with a series of upcoming decisions to help this franchise flourish. The blame game should get started here soon and it’s clear he needs to do everything he can to steer the ship of accountability. Talk to your players, hold players to a higher standard of effort the way he failed to do in Phoenix, and ultimately make the players feel like you can lead.
It remains to be seen how this story ends in Detroit but if Williams wants to be known as anything other than the worst coaching contract in the game he’d best get to work now winning some games. Making an extra player or two like him is a start.