The Phoenix Suns fired Monty Williams on Saturday, two years after reaching the NBA Finals and a year after he was overwhelmingly voted coach of the year, two people with knowledge of the decision said.
The people spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the decision.
Williams was extremely successful in his four regular seasons in Phoenix, winning 63% of his games. But three straight years of playoff frustration was probably too much for the Suns to pass up, especially after two straight years of Phoenix losing by 30 points at halftime of home elimination games.
ESPN and Athletic were the first to report the decision.
The Suns had a 2-0 lead going into the 2021 NBA Finals, only to lose in six games. They’ve lost in the second round in each of the past two seasons, both times in an embarrassing finish: last year to Dallas, this year to Denver.
“No day feels right,” Williams said after the loss earlier this week to Denver, when asked to compare last season’s debacle to this year’s season-ending loss.
Saturday probably didn’t feel good either.
The Suns now turn into another high-profile coaching vacancy, after Toronto fired Nick Nurse and Milwaukee fired Mike Budenholzer. Nurse won the 2019 NBA title with the Raptors, while Budenholzer was the coach who overcame Phoenix’s 2-0 lead in the 2021 Finals.
It is the second major decision taken by new Suns owner Mat Ishbia in about three months since the closing of the sale that gave him control of the club. In February, Ishbia greenlit a blockbuster trade that brought Kevin Durant to Phoenix and gave the Suns a core — himself, Devin Booker, former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul — the team hoped would was enough to deliver a title.
It just didn’t work out, at least not this year. Paul got hurt in the playoffs to continue his run of bad luck on the health front in the postseason, Ayton sat out the finals and Booker and Durant just looked spent when he was done.
Williams, after the season ended, blamed himself.
“I take it personally, not having our team ready to play the biggest game of the year,” Williams said. “That’s something I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen. … That is something that I have to analyze in depth, everything that I am doing.
Ishbia clearly took a deep look as well and decided to make the switch.
No one knows what other changes are coming. The roster will surely change, and so will the system with a new manager in place.