Monty Williams Just Got Fired

Not a major surprise. When you have Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holliday on the team at the same time and all you can get out of it is making the playoffs on the last day of the season as the #8 seed and getting swept in the first round, you’re probably not long for a job.

And he wasn’t. There’s a really nice house in Old Metairie going up for sale soon.

The New Orleans Pelicans today have informed Monty Williams that he will not be retained as the team’s head coach, it was announced by Pelicans Executive Vice President Mickey Loomis.

Williams was appointed head coach of the Pelicans on June 7, 2010 and in five seasons has led the team to two playoff appearances and an overall record of 173-221.

“I have the utmost respect for Monty Williams, not only as a coach but as a person,” said Pelicans Owner Tom Benson. “He represented our team, our organization and our city with tremendous class and dignity. Gayle and I grew very fond of Monty and his wife Ingrid and of course their five beautiful children. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

The Pelicans finished the 2014-15 season with a record of 45-37 and the eighth position in the Western Conference, earning New Orleans its first postseason berth in four seasons.

“Making a decision like this is never easy and is never done hastily, especially when you are dealing with a person of Monty Williams’ character. We thanked Monty for the tremendous work and commitment he made to our organization and the development of our young players, specifically Anthony Davis,” said Loomis. “While we continue to work towards improving our roster, we decided that now was the time to make this decision. We wish nothing but the best for Monty in the future.”

Pelicans Senior Vice President of Basketball Operation/ General Manager Dell Demps added, “We thank Monty for his dedication and leadership to our team both on and off the court. He served as a great role model for our young team and worked tirelessly towards the development of all of our players. We endured a lot of change during the past season and Monty was a steady influence in our locker room. We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”

It’s a shame they waited so long to make a change. Avery Johnson could have been had, but the Pels waited until after he took the job at Alabama. Billy Donovan could have been had, but they waited until after he took the job ith the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Especially since Williams’ hot seat, and that of Dell Demps, has been blamed for the short-term management style that has pervaded the Pelicans’ decision-making and roster moves the last year or so. You would have thought if Tom Benson and Mickey Loomis were out of patience with the hard-luck results in the Smoothie King Arena they would have pulled the plug right after the Warriors dumped the Pelicans in four games.

On the other hand, the demand was to make the playoffs this year. Which they did, despite more injuries than normal. And considering this is a team which plays crappy defense and for most of the season couldn’t shoot, 45-37 actually looks pretty good. The firing is a bit of a surprise and it’s going to be criticized as Loomis going back on his word.

Still, when you have Davis, Evans, Gordon, Holliday and Anderson on the roster you ought to be better than the #8 seed. It’s hard to conjure up much sentiment that Williams is the guy who can take this team deep into the playoffs or produce a championship.

So now, who replaces Williams?

Well, John Calipari was Davis’ college coach and Calipari might be interested in a move back to the NBA. He’s played the business model of signing a half-dozen McDonald’s All-Americans who turn pro as freshmen every year about as far as it can go, and while what he ultimately proved is that you just can’t consistently win a national championship with a team consisting mostly of freshmen you can’t criticize his winning percentage.

But while Calipari’s teams usually defended a lot better than Williams’ Pelicans teams have, one wonders if he can coach enough offense to take this team to the next level. He’s certainly be a splashy hire, but would he be the best available?

Tough to say.

Perhaps more likely is Tom Thibodeau, the current coach of the Chicago Bulls. Thibodeau, the 2011 NBA Coach of the Year and 2012 runner-up, has a career winning percentage of .647 and has had Chicago in first or sec0nd place in their division all five years he’s coached there despite having his best player Derrick Rose available only intermittently with his knee problems. If Thibodeau could be had he’d be as close to a home run hire as possible, and he could well be available given his poor relationship with the Bulls’ front office.

You’re probably thinking that Thibodeau would be a no-brainer hire given Louisiana ties. Except Thibodeau was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut and went to college at Salem State. He’s not a coonass in any productive sense of the word.

Another possibility, though perhaps the least interesting of the three, is Mike D’Antoni – most recently the Lakers’ head coach. D’Antoni would be a bit of a ho-hum hire given his career winning percentage of .516 and the fact that only six times in the 12 years he’s been an NBA head coach has his team made the playoffs. But that said, D’Antoni coaches a frenetic, up-tempo style of play which could actually work with the Pelicans’ talent. He had a four-year run with the Phoenix Suns from 2004-08 in which they were the most fun team in the league to watch, and during that stretch the Suns were an impressive 232-96, with three division titles and a pair of trips to the Western Conference finals. Having a coach who can paper over some defensive liabilities with style of play might be an interesting experiment for this team.

In any event, Williams is gone. The Pelicans’ upper management might be liars and tyrants, but at least you can’t accuse them of standing pat.

 

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