New Pistons coach Monty Williams spoke about dealing with a personal matter while coaching the Phoenix Suns at his preseason press conference Tuesday afternoon in Detroit.
Williams said his wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer during NBA games.
“The reason I brought it up was not to talk about my family, but to make it more of a focus that women need early detection and testing,” he said. “We did a genetic test and then scan after scan after scan and then we found her early and it could have saved my wife’s life and it could have saved others.”
Williams said that played a major role in the process of taking the job as he thanked Pistons owner Tom Morris and general manager Troy Weaver for their understanding.
“I had a situation in my family that needed personal attention,” Williams said. “I spoke to my wife (Tuesday) about whether we should talk about it publicly, but that was a big part of my decision-making and the patience that Troy and Mr. Joris had with me and us on the go that told me a lot.”
Williams, 51, told Weaver and Gores he couldn’t take the job when it was initially offered because of his wife’s situation.
“While we were navigating all that, talking to Troy and telling him, man, I couldn’t now because I had to take care of my family,” Williams said. “And then we got the great news that we were going to find out about her situation much earlier than we thought we would and all of a sudden, I got a text from Troy after they spilled their secrets about me, which I thought was completely off the table.”
Williams said he was in on his son’s experience when he received Weaver’s letter. Williams lost his first wife, Ingrid, in a car accident in February 2016.
“It was all in my health,” Williams said. “After I lost a job, or a family situation, and then became a dad, and traveled with my kids and did a few things, all of a sudden, I got a text from Troy, and then things went really fast after that.”
The Suns fired Williams after losing Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals to the NBA champion Denver Nuggets by 25 points in Phoenix under new team owner Matt Ichpeia.
Williams admitted that he is still in contact with Phoenix.
“I will always hold that as a special place in my history as a coach and as a person,” said Williams. “Before I went to Phoenix, he looked at me a certain way. That experience allowed me to be here. So for me to sit here and say I moved on, that’s not the case. I love those people over there. I’m grateful for what they’ve done for me and my family.”
Williams just agreed to a multi-year contract extension with Phoenix in July 2022 before relinquishing it a year later.
He said, “When you get fired, it doesn’t mean you have to be controversial or there has to be silliness to go along with that.” “I can’t believe it, however, when someone shows that kind of confidence in you, it gives you the confidence to move forward with them in a great way. It doesn’t mean I have to belittle this situation or that organization.”
Detroit has hired the 2021-22 NBA Coach of the Year, making him the highest-paid coach in NBA history with a six-year, $78.5 million deal.
“The thing about Monty, he’s obviously proven himself and so forth, but Monty is hungry too,” said Joris. “He’s not resting on his laurels. We discussed that. He’s got a lot to prove. I just feel very lucky to have Monty on board. We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s an exciting time for us and a big win.”
Salary certainly played a role in his decision as Williams considered taking a year off coaching.
“The quick answer is Troy, the players and (off) the money,” said Williams. “That’s something we don’t talk about. They always say it wasn’t the money. I always laugh about it. I think it’s disrespectful when someone is that generous to pay me that kind of money. One, I have to pay tribute to and two, I have to talk about.” “.
The Pistons are coming off their second worst season in franchise history at 17-65. The last winning record in 2015-16 was at 44-38, but Williams loves the talent on the current roster and was surprised to see the entire team attend the press conference other than Bojan Bogdanovic.
“I was spoiled this morning at the meeting when I found out you guys are all here,” Williams said in his opening statement. “You’ll find out I get emotional about good things like that and I’m so grateful you all are here and I’m grateful to have dogs like you in the fight with me. Please understand.”
The press conference began more than 30 minutes after 1:30 p.m. PT, but Williams arrived in a suit and looked eager to start his third coaching career with a team that was last in the playoffs in 2019 with a 41-41 record under Dwane Casey.
“I can continue to be grateful in my heart for this opportunity to be in this position,” said Williams. “Across the board everyone here has embraced me and made me feel like I’ve been here for a while and I thank you for that. This is a real blessing to me and my family and we will make you proud.”
Mark Bryant and Jarrett Jack attended the press conference as they were assistant coaches under Williams in Phoenix. Williams said former Rockets coach and longtime assistant Stephen Silas will be his chief assistant.
“I think he’s someone who’s going to call me when I’m off track,” Williams said of Silas. “I think he’s someone who can relate to the unit in the head coach position and so he’ll be someone I rely on a lot along with the other members of my staff.”
The Suns hired Williams in May 2019 to turn around a team that had its second-worst season in franchise history at 19-63 in 2018-19 and had not made the playoffs since 2010.
He proceeded to coach them to the 2021 Finals off the momentum of an 8-0 series in his first year in Phoenix. The Suns then posted their best record in franchise history at 64-18 in 2021-22, but fell to the Mavericks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals by 33 points.
Phoenix entered the year in fourth place, but were one of the favorites to win the championship after trading Kevin Durant before the February 9 deadline. The Suns instead lost to eventual NBA champion Denver in the Western Semifinals, losing a Game 6 elimination at home by 25 points. The No. 1 seeded Nuggets led 81-51 at halftime.
Williams compiled a record of 194-115 in his four seasons in Phoenix. The Suns reached the playoffs the last three seasons under him, but went 0-3 in playoff games, losing their last two games to Dallas and Denver at home before selling out fans at the Footprint Center with a combined 58 points.
So, Williams had great success in Phoenix, but failed to win the championship after expectations rose after the race to the 2021 Finals and the acquisition of Durant during the 2022-23 season.
The Suns traded Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jay Crowder, four first-round picks, and selective trades to Brooklyn for TJ Warren and Durant mid-season.
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