PHOENIX — Monty Williams cherished his time as the 76ers’ lead assistant.
He held the post during the 2018-19 season before agreeing to become the Phoenix Suns’ head coach in May 2019. Williams remained with the Sixers through that season before assuming his new coaching duties.
“I was grateful when they first called me to be able to go to a team that was contending for a championship,” Williams said Saturday of accepting Sixers post in June 2018. “You just don’t get those opportunities. ... So for them to not only ask me to be apart of it, but take on a huge role is something that allowed me to answer the questions whether or not I was going to be able to do it again.”
Former Sixers coach Brett Brown gave a lot of responsibilities to Williams, who had a stint as the New Orleans Pelicans head coach. In addition to realizing he was ready to get into head coaching, the 49-year-old forged relationships within the organization. He even hired former Sixers assistant coach Kevin Young to his staff this offseason.
“And the area that I lived in, in Jersey, is something I didn’t anticipate as long as I did,” Williams said. “So I had a phenomenal time in Philly. I loved it there.”
So much so that Williams was looking forward to coming back for the 2019-20 season if he didn’t get a job.
“I really enjoyed learning,” he said. “Working with Brett really helped me to shape the way I viewed basketball and the way we built our program, because if you have been around Brett, you know he thinks different. And that really helped me a ton.”
Williams has compiled a 50-48 record in Phoenix. This season’s squad is 16-9 and in fourth place in the Western Conference.
Williams joined the Sixers’ coaching staff after two years in the San Antonio Spurs’ front office.
The Spurs job came about after Williams spent the 2015-16 season as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He took a leave of absence after his wife, Ingrid, was killed in a car accident on Feb. 10, 2016. After the season, it was announced that Williams would not return.
Before going to Oklahoma City, he had compiled a 173-221 record during five seasons as the Pelicans’ head coach. Williams led New Orleans to postseason appearances in 2011 and 2015. Before that, he spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers. He also was an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s national team from 2013-16.
As a player, Williams was the New York Knicks’ first-round pick out of Notre Dame in 1994, the 24th pick overall. A 6-foot-8 small forward, he went on to also play for the Spurs, Nuggets, Magic, and Sixers. He averaged 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 16.7 minutes per game in nine seasons.