Here’s what we knew about Monty Williams prior to his hiring in New Orleans: Spurs Guy, good dude, fine player who overcame quite a bit just to stay in the NBA, a pious man who knew the game.
Here’s what we learned about Monty Williams during his coaching tenure with the Pelicans: New Orleans possibly underachieved, his players liked him, his play calling was charmingly quirky in spite of too little growth.
Here’s what we found out on Tuesday: Monty Williams was fired as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Here’s what was confirmed about Monty Williams later on Tuesday: Good dude.
The cynic in you could point out that Monty Williams will be paid by the Pelicans next season not to coach, and that he’s probably taking the high road in order to let prospective future employers know that he’s not going to trash them should they decide to hire and then fire him as coach.
The rest of your body, including the part that beats, should just fall back on the knowledge that this is who Monty Williams is. Good dude, pious guy, a man that knows the (hiring, and firing) game.
Opinions on Williams’ time in New Orleans are not as clear-cut.
He was hired by a former ownership group, and former general manager in Jeff Bower, who is now the ostensible GM in Detroit. The former GM in Detroit, Joe Dumars, is hovering over this team as a possible basketball sage that could either pair or topple over current GM Dell Demps, who was hired the season before Williams took a Chris Paul-led team to the playoffs in 2011.
By that time, the NBA owned the Pelicans. You can read that again, if you think that’s something that only happened to fly-by-night NBA squads of decades’ past – the NBA owned one of the league’s 30 teams. This is what Monty worked under.
Williams watched as Paul, understandably annoyed with the situation, forced his way into a trade toward one Los Angeles team and then another. The return was embarrassing: Goran Dragic, and then when the NBA stepped in to block that deal, the always-overrated Eric Gordon. Gordon totaled just 51 games in his first two seasons with the team.
Things started to prop up in the months that followed the Paul deal, with new ownership and standout Kentucky center Anthony Davis lining up behind Williams. Davis and forward Ryan Anderson missed heaps of games over the next two seasons, but the whole team banded together well enough to make the playoffs by the slimmest of margins in 2015: New Orleans literally needed a midseason desperate three-point heave from Davis to earn the tiebreaker over the injury-hit Oklahoma City Thunder.
That, apparently, was enough to save Williams’ job as he returned to the postseason:
Ownership gave GM Dell Demps and Monty Williams preseason mandate to make playoffs to keep jobs, w/ no allowance for injuries. They made it.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) April 16, 2015
On the heels of a contract discussion pitched around whether or not Williams’ team option for 2016-17 would be picked up, though, it seems as if GM Dell Demps has had enough. The new owners didn’t hire Williams, the GM didn’t hire Williams, and these things rarely work out.
Williams had his faults as coach. The Pelicans were overly reliant on easily defendable sets featuring Tyreke Evans down the stretch of games, ignoring Davis despite his newfound ability to adapt to a modern NBA game that is trending rapidly toward the perimeter. Monty alternated those sorts of staid sets with oddball mis-directions and movement, adding to his personal yin/yang. Demps should be under just as much scrutiny (if not more) as a personnel chief, his one big win was making the obvious move with Davis in the draft, but that doesn’t mean Williams didn’t put himself in this position.
What he’s now put himself in position to do is to be rightfully lauded for the guy we always knew we had. That, children of all ages, is how you handle disappointment.