The Phoenix Suns have parted ways with head coach Monty Williams, Bill Reiter of CBS Sports confirmed. The Suns had championship expectations this season after trading for star forward Kevin Durant. However, with their season ending for a second straight year on a bad home loss in another second-round exit, the NBA’s winningest coach over the last three seasons is out of a job.
Mat Ishbia, who assumed ownership of the team just three months ago, made the decision to fire Williams after the Suns’ 125-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 11, per a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Ishbia has not been shy in making big moves since taking over control from disgraced owner Robert Sarver. Shortly after stepping in, Ishbia pulled the trigger on trading for Durant, a move that significantly depleted Phoenix’s depth though, paradoxically, heightened their championship odds. While the short-term results of that trade haven’t been successful, only time will tell if the Suns will ultimately be rewarded for the move.
Despite all of Phoenix’s recent regular season under Williams, Ishbia felt it was time to move on after another second-round postseason exit. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Suns want to bring in someone who “commands accountability” and can be creative on offense, the latter being a topic that Williams struggled with in the team’s last two postseason runs.
Among the candidates on Phoenix’s list are current Clippers head coach Ty Lue and recently fired Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. Lue is still under contract with the Clippers, but if he becomes available, Charania reports that he would be the Suns’ “ideal No. 1 target.”
Although Williams coached the Suns for only four seasons, he was still among the most successful coaches in franchise history. In 2019, he took over a team that had been out of the playoffs for nearly a decade. While he didn’t get them back into it immediately, he did lead them to an undefeated 8-0 record in the Orlando bubble, ultimately coming just short of reaching the 2020 playoffs.
The Suns traded for Chris Paul in the offseason of 2020 and that helped vault the Suns into a stretch of immense regular-season success. The Suns went 115-39 across the next two regular seasons. The Suns blew a 2-0 lead in the 2021 NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks, and in 2022 they blew a 2-0 lead in the second round against the Dallas Mavericks. Phoenix was an underdog against Denver, but yet again, the Suns failed to capitalize on a championship opportunity and were ousted in the second round.
Williams won Coach of the Year in 2022, and he won the Coach’s Association’s Coach of the Year award in both 2021 and 2022. But those playoff missteps as well as a seemingly fraught relationship with former No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton are viewed as the main elements that hurt Williams.
Now the Suns have one of the most desirable head-coaching jobs in basketball. They have a roster outfitted with two superstars in Durant and Booker, a new owner willing to spend money and a market that has tended to recruit talent quite well. Phoenix should have its pick of almost any coach on the market. Williams, similarly, should be in demand among the increasing number of teams still looking for a leader. So far, the Bucks, Pistons and Raptors are all reportedly interested in Williams, however, Charania reports that veteran coach is expected to take time for himself and his family before he assessed the road ahead.