EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns get Monty Williams in attempt to begin reconstruction of image, culture

May 3, 2019, 11:03 AM | Updated: 1:30 pm

The Phoenix Suns’ search for a new head coach felt rather procedural once the initial shockwave of Igor Kokoskov’s firing after one season wore off.

When Kokoskov was let go and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski offered some of the reasoning being Monty Williams’ potential availability, you had to only look at the link between Jeff Bower, James Jones and Williams to see what was going on.

Bower, the Suns’ new senior vice president of basketball operations, knows Williams from his time with the New Orleans Pelicans. Jones, Phoenix’s new general manager, played for the Trail Blazers when Williams was an assistant there.

In addition to reportedly interviewing Williams twice, Bower and Jones traveled to Portland to meet with two assistants I didn’t bother remembering the names of because the hiring of Williams was inevitable.

Part of that still feels uncomfortable with how they did Kokoskov dirty, aided by Wojnarowski’s reporting that the Suns initially had decided on keeping Kokoskov. You can imagine how poorly that went over behind the scenes from the 13-day timeline of the season ending to Kokoskov being fired.

Part of Williams’ hiring feels gross with the aforementioned “coaching search” and how it was rolled out on Friday. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported it’s a five-year deal for Williams and the Suns’ turnaround making the hiring official was almost instantaneous. The rapid release of those two details is orchestrated.

Why?

Well, this is where we can start turning the frowns upside down.

The Suns’ attempts at projecting stability are always painfully obvious. This is another one. But paying Williams for five years, getting their first choice and assumingly beating out the Los Angeles Lakers for Williams’ services is a huge accomplishment for Phoenix.

When Kokoskov got fired, I wrote what the Suns needed in that hire was a no-doubt, authoritative leader, something Kokoskov was never going to be.

If anyone will be that in Phoenix, it’s Williams. He’s one of the most well-respected coaches across the league, as you’re going to continue to see the well wishes from top NBA players on social media continue to roll in.

We always had to wonder how Jeff Hornacek was dealing with the Morris twins, if the players could take Earl Watson’s grand proclamations seriously or if they believed in Kokoskov as a leader.

Quell those concerns now, friends. Williams will have that locker room from the jump.

“His leadership skills, accountability skills — when he walks in he’s a leader of men,” Nets forward Jared Dudley told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta on Monday.

That’s crucial for a team that, no matter how this offseason goes, is still going to primarily feature youth in the rotation.

I’ve been a huge proponent of the Suns forking over a considerable amount of future assets for a point guard like Memphis’ Mike Conley or New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday that can help the likes of Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker establish a competitive, winning culture before they are capable of doing so on their own.

That’s a good way to think about Williams as a head coach. If we go off his five years in New Orleans, Williams’ strategic acumen left something to be desired and his choices often frustrated. Even with the Pelicans’ improvement and getting to the playoffs, New Orleans still let him go, feeling a maximum possible threshold had been met.

All the Suns and their fans want is to get to that threshold. We’ll worry about what comes after that once we get there.

After the Chris Paul era ended in Williams’ second season, he had the win totals jump from 21 to 27, 34 and all the way up to 45 and that playoff berth.

With that, of course, came Anthony Davis’ growth into a star, Holiday’s emergence and surrounding those two with other good pieces, but I wouldn’t worry about Williams not having enough to work with in Phoenix. The talent, at least the young talent, is already here and there’s more coming.

Let’s wrap back to the person the Suns are getting as a new defacto leader.

Here’s what Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown had to say Friday afternoon about his assistant getting hired.

“I’ve known him for 15, 16 years. Anyone who pays attention understands that he’s ‘elite people,'” he said. “He’s incredibly relational, prideful in studying how to be a coach.”

“He’ll hate that I say this, but he’s the best man that I know,” Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant told Sports Illustrated in 2017.

If the type of human being and coach Williams is can’t get the Suns out of their current predicament, it’s difficult to realistically envision who could. Take that perspective of despair in to essentially say Williams is just about the perfect hire for the Suns.

It’s a win for general manager James Jones in his first major test holding the position.

It’s an even bigger victory for owner Robert Sarver, who failed to capitalize on the repetitiveness and bland discussion of his post-Nash ineptitude by reaching new heights the past year over arena deals and more abrupt firings.

Look past not being able to teach an old dog new tricks, worrying this almost went “too well” and any other ticks you may share with this fellow writer about the Suns being competent, and hey, they functioned as a competent basketball organization.

They wanted Williams to be their head coach. They got Williams. That’s it! How hard was that?!

There’s still some roster cleanup for Jones to do and the whole point guard thing, but for the time being, the Suns somehow salvaged a disastrous 18 months of firing a general manager and head coach.

They deserve some praise for that, albeit that it’s rather reluctant given that we should never forget how we got here in the first place.

The hope is Williams and Jones can get us to a point where we can actually forget, though, and kick up our feet around our buddies in the somewhat near future stating, “Hey, remember when the Suns fired their GM nine days before the season, played an entire season without a point guard and then fired their head coach after one year?! Look at ’em now!”

The Suns would be wise to capitalize off that hope.

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