Phoenix Suns moving forward from Robert Sarver report, mindful of victims
PHOENIX — While including his own individual reaction to the NBA’s investigation of Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver that brought on feelings of disbelief and disgust, head coach Monty Williams’ response also went much further than just how he felt on his own.
Williams said at the team’s media day on Monday that he’s had a ton of conversations about how the Suns handle it and deal with the fallout in a way that’s productive and sympathetic toward those affected by Sarver’s actions and words.
“I don’t think you can throw clichés and catchphrases on this one and be like, ‘Let’s move forward,'” he said on Monday. “I think that’s somewhat irresponsible. I always talk about this being a get-to and not I got to, not allowing anything to affect our gym — I don’t think you can do that in this situation.
“But I do think if we continue to show a level of respect and love for one another, we can move forward the right way. I think that will enhance our culture, I think it’s going to bring us closer together.”
Williams emphasized how moving on from this is a challenge he won’t shy away from, even if it is uncomfortable.
“That’s what we gotta do. We gotta be leaders in transition and be productive as we move forward,” Williams said of organic conversations he had with his players once the report was released, serving as a “sounding board and listener” for them.
Williams’ time spent reflecting on it came back to a simple thought of, “How can I add value?”
General manager James Jones elaborated on what comes from the post-Sarver future and the discovery (for some) of Sarver’s behavior.
“It also gives us a pivot point to continue to focus on raising the standards of our organization and leading by example,” Jones said .”I think when you look at the findings and this process we’ve been through, you realize that we just did not live up to a standard of excellence. Those behaviors, not just in sport, but just in society in general, those are behaviors that are unacceptable.
“And we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and we have to protect those that can’t protect themselves. Our focus this year is to continue on the progress that we’ve made as an organization.”
Williams made an important distinction when asked if how he feels about the team heading into the season has changed compared to previous years due to the amount of offseason drama.
That’s normally a question Williams would shoot down altogether but he did note one difference.
“I say that with a level of sensitivity because I don’t want to say we’re just going back playing basketball and we’re going to forget about the people that have been affected. I want that to be known,” he said. “And so from that standpoint, yeah, that might be the difference.”
Jones brought up the steps the organization is taking.
“We give them the opportunity to change those dynamics, to change those environments and I think we’ve done a good job of that but there’s so much more room for growth,” Jones said.
The Suns’ statement following the investigation’s conclusion supports that line of thinking: “At the direction of senior leadership, we have strengthened our culture and focused on creating a workplace where everyone feels included and valued.
“These efforts include hiring new HR leadership, updating our employee handbook to clearly define our expectations for appropriate workplace behavior, adopting a strong code of conduct, instituting robust processes to report misconduct, and holding trainings on respect in the workplace and our corresponding policies and procedures.”
So did their statement once Sarver announced he was selling the team: “We are on a journey that began before last November, one that has included changes to leadership, staff and accountability measures. While we are proud of our progress and the culture of respect and integrity we are building, we know there remains work to do and relationships to rebuild. We are committed to doing so for our staff, players, fans, partners and this community.”
Something the team surely understands that Williams’ remarks spoke to is how they themselves can help make working for the Suns a more positive experience, and maintain the positive experiences employees get from interacting with them. They can be a part of aiding that change in what is a delicate workplace at the moment.
Employees and ex-employees speak nothing but good things of how great it is to work with the likes of Jones, Williams, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and so on. But they need to keep staying mindful of where the situation is at and the strong effect they can have on those in the building with simple exchanges and 30-second conversations, as they have already.