In an NBA offseason rife with rumors and an early flurry of trades and signings, the Phoenix Suns quietly made sure an important piece of their franchise will stay put for the long haul.
No, this isn’t Deandre Ayton and the Suns matching the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133-million maximum offer sheet, which itself came with its own drama and is a story for another time. Phoenix reportedly came to terms with head coach Monty Williams to a long-term contract extension even when the reigning NBA Coach of the Year still had two years left on his current contract.
It’s not surprising that the Suns did this, considering how Williams brought Phoenix to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993 and helped the Suns reach a franchise-record 64 regular-season wins last season. In short, the good times have come thanks in large part to the former NBA player.
More than the accolades and milestones, however, is the culture Williams has laid down within Phoenix. For one, Williams is unafraid of calling out players regardless of their stature in the team and that is something that has endeared him with his other players and has been refreshing compared to the drama and deceit surrounding other franchises. That we-win-it’s-them-we-lose-that’s-on-me mentality has helped bring about the accountability that also separates winning teams from simply talented teams.
This kind of environment also has brought out the best in the likes of Ayton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, and has even given Chris Paul a new lease in his basketball life. Each player knows their role on the team and can step up when needed. The Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals was a perfect example as Cameron Payne stepped up when Paul was sidelined and at times bothered by a right shoulder injury. Of course, players play the game, but one of Williams’ best traits comes in empowering his players and putting them in positions to succeed. That kind of coaching is certainly not lost on Phoenix’s rivals, who themselves want a coach like that.
Giving Williams a sense of security with a contract extension is one thing, but the Suns must now back it up by putting him in a position to succeed and continue implementing his program. Phoenix had already agreed to an extension with GM James Jones earlier this year and now he and Williams can work together for the foreseeable future. With Jones, the Suns have had some hits in the draft and have also brought in some free agents who have made major contributions (e.g., Paul, Payne, and Jae Crowder). Keeping that pipeline open will certainly help in what has become a continuously evolving basketball landscape.
Aside from that, Williams will be at his best if Phoenix lets him and the coaching staff coach. That this long-term extension was done at this point in the offseason is a sign that the Suns know their priorities and won’t let any distractions come in their effort to bounce back from last season’s disaster of a Game 7.
The success Williams has also brought to Phoenix has afforded him patience from the ownership that was not afforded to previous Suns coaches and even the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Frank Vogel, who was fired not even two years after winning an NBA championship. Struggles will be viewed differently especially considering the franchise-record 18-game winning streak and consecutive trips to the postseason the Virginia native has been able to achieve. Williams is not one to take this for granted, but not having to look behind this back will certainly ease his worries.
The Phoenix Suns and Monty Williams agreeing to a long-term extension was arguably their best move this offseason and while Deandre Ayton and his own maximum contract would like to have a word, it’s Williams that has largely brought out the best in Ayton and his teammates. The extension certainly won’t break the internet, but it sets the stage for prolonged success by the Suns for years to come.