An abrupt firing in Phoenix and all the NBA coaching latest
Here's our up-to-date inside look at Monty Williams' dismissal in the desert and the league's other three current openings
CHICAGO — The NBA coaching carousel, as it is prone to do, churned out another thunderbolt Saturday night.
The Phoenix Suns, roughly 48 hours after they were ushered into the offseason by a humbling 25-point Game 6 defeat at home to the Denver Nuggets, announced late Saturday that they have fired Monty Williams.
So there are now four openings leaguewide as team executives from all over the NBA descend upon Chicago for the start of the league’s annual pre-draft combine: Phoenix joins Detroit, Milwaukee and Toronto in the hunt for a new coach.
Also now: Three of the NBA’s last five Coach of the Year winners including Williams, as well as three of the past four coaches to win it all, have all lost those jobs.
Williams guided the Suns to a 2-0 lead in the 2021 NBA Finals against Milwaukee's Mike Budenholzer, who was dismissed by the Bucks just nine days before Phoenix fired Williams. Yet Williams could not prevent four consecutive defeats to the Bucks that denied the Suns their first title in franchise history … or a 33-point defeat at home to Dallas in Game 7 of the second round last season after the Suns won a league-high 64 games.
That regular-season success in 2021-22 earned Coach of the Year honors for Williams, but new Suns owner Mat Ishbia and president of basketball operations James Jones responded to the Denver rout by immediately firing the 51-year-old coach. The Suns, playing without the injured Deandre Ayton (rib) and Chris Paul (groin), fell behind by 81-51 at halftime in Thursday night's Game 6 in front of their own fans — reminiscent of their 57-27 halftime deficit to the Mavericks in May 2022.
As covered on this Substack when the Bucks fired Budenhozler, this move — for all of its surprising timing — is emblematic of a harsh new reality in the NBA for head coaches. Which is even harsher than it used to be.
With a new collective bargaining agreement coming into effect this summer that will make it extremely expensive and in many cases prohibitive to assemble and maintain three-star (or more) constructions without serious restrictions on adding to the roster elsewhere, even accomplished coaches like Williams and Budenholzer are bound to enjoy less security than they've had in #thisleague. Changing a team's lead voice is going to be easier than dodging those team-building restrictions that will soon be imposed on the NBA's foremost spenders.
Sources told The Stein Line that the Suns are expected to explore the feasibility of trying to lure Tyronn Lue away from the LA Clippers. My #thisleague UNCUT podcast partner Chris Haynes reported Sunday morning that Budenholzer and recently fired former Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse are likewise expected to land on the Suns’ wish list.