EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns face Monty Williams for 1st time since former coach’s firing

Oct 8, 2023, 10:38 AM

Devin Booker #1 stands with head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns during the second quarter...

Devin Booker #1 stands with head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns during the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets in game six of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 11, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — It is unlikely the Phoenix Suns will play a game this season with more happening off the court than Sunday’s preseason opener in Detroit against the Pistons. And it’s fitting that it comes when what happens on the court won’t have much significance.

It is Phoenix’s first time facing new Pistons head coach Monty Williams since he was fired by the Suns following their playoff exit in May. Williams initially was going to take some time away from coaching before taking a meeting with Detroit and later accepting an offer that made him the highest-paid coach in the NBA.

While only six players remain from Williams’ squad last season, it’s still going to be a happy day for those guys and staff members to see some familiar faces for the first time in quite a while, faces they were used to seeing daily.

“I could be here all day talking about coach Mont’ and what he’s done for me as a person and what he’s done for my career,” guard Devin Booker said on Thursday. “In search of stability through my career, I finally found it and coach Mont’ did things and changed the culture like no one ever has. So big respect to Mont’. I can’t wait to see the guys.”

As previously referenced, Booker will not only be reuniting with Williams but assistant coaches like Mark Bryant and Jarrett Jack that were on Williams’ staff for multiple seasons through all the highs and lows.

Williams spoke on his time in Phoenix pregame.

“That community was great to my family and I had a lot of good relationships with the players,” he said Sunday. “I was just blessed to be in that position. All the work the coaches and the players put in. I benefitted from all that. I can’t talk about it enough, how grateful I am to have been in that place and lived in that city and all of that. It’s allowed for me to be in this position here in Detroit.”

Suns wing Josh Okogie joked he’s going to tell Williams he needs a little bit of that $78.5 million deal he received from Detroit.

“Monty helped me grow as a player and a person,” Okogie said Wednesday. “I remember, y’all know last year when I broke my nose, he was the first one to call me. He was like, ‘Man, I hated that you did that man! You were just getting rolling!’ He was excited about what I was doing on the court and letting me know, making sure taking your time getting back.

“And just always if I’m having a bad day, bad game, he’s the first one saying, ‘Keep your head up young buck.’ Being able to see him this weekend is going to be great, just to give him a hug, catch up a little bit. But we still mean business when we go over there.”

In addition to those moments on Sunday, owner Mat Ishbia would be hosting the Suns in his city where his mortgage company is run out of. Head coach Frank Vogel wasn’t sure the capacity to which the team would be making the rounds but it’s safe to say there were at least a few guests on hand for the game to greet.

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