The Phoenix Suns fired coach Monty Williams following their blowout elimination loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. New Suns owner Mat Ishbia made the decision to dismiss Williams immediately after Thursday night’s Game 6 loss and had general manager James Jones call him on Saturday night to deliver the news. Williams had won an NBA Coach of the Year award and helped revive the franchise into the winningest team in the NBA over the past three seasons.
The pressure on Williams had increased after Ishbia engineered the trade deadline deal for Kevin Durant in February. Jones had been an advocate for Williams but was quoted in the team’s news release as saying, “It was difficult for me to make this decision.” There is no clear front-runner to replace Williams, who had three years and more than $20 million left on his contract.
The Suns will join a coaching marketplace that includes the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, and Detroit Pistons. While the Suns have two stars under contract, they are challenged with a massive payroll that could limit their ability to add quality depth under the rules in the new collective bargaining agreement. Ishbia traded four future unprotected first-round picks and two players to the Brooklyn Nets in February, a move that limits Phoenix’s flexibility in team building.