Phoenix — The Phoenix Suns have gone through coaches like tear-away racing visors, the count up to five in five years.
The instability has hurt them on the court, the run of playoff-less appearances stretching to nine straight seasons with this year’s 19-63 finish.
Monty Williams, the man GM James Jones hired to coach the Suns, hopes to change the trend.
“Continuity, having a staff here for a while and putting in a system that the players can rely upon, but ultimately it will come down to James, myself and the players pushing this thing forward,” Williams said during his introductory news conference Tuesday. “The players are going to have to embrace a level of work and commitment that it takes to be a champion.”
Williams was hired May 3 to replace Igor Kokoskov, fired after one season in the desert.
Williams’s arrival in Phoenix was delayed while he finished out the playoffs as an assistant to Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. The 76ers were eliminated last week by Toronto on Kawhi Leonard’s hang-on-the-rim buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“In my conversations with Mr. Sarver, I saw someone who didn’t duck the tough questions,” Williams said.
“We both had tough questions for each other and in this day and age where people throw each other under the bus, make excuses, blame, I didn’t see that. I saw a man who really wants to bring success to this city and I mean that with all of my heart or I wouldn’t have come here.”
Williams had a previous stint as an NBA head coach, leading New Orleans from 2010-15. A year after he was fired, Williams’ wife, Ingrid, was killed in a car crash. Ingrid Williams grew up in Paw Paw, Mich., near Kalamazoo.
Williams said he was pushed by his kids to return to coaching.
“When everything happened to my family, my focus was just take care of my children,” said Williams, who has remarried. “That led me to believe I might not ever be able to coach again, and I was cool with that. But they weren’t. And to have your children want you to go back to doing what you love to do gave me even more confidence, more strength. Hopefully that translates and the players can pick up on that.”
In the Suns, Williams takes over a young team with two star-quality players at its core: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.