this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Monty Williams helped the New Orleans Pelicans transition from one franchise talent, Chris Paul , to the next, Anthony Davis. But the head coach won't be around to oversee the best days of the NBA 's new MVP-in-waiting. Rather than ...
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Is Firing Monty Williams a Statement or Hasty Mistake for New Orleans Pelicans?
Monty Williams helped the New Orleans Pelicans transition from one franchise talent, Chris Paul, to the next, Anthony Davis.
But the head coach won't be around to oversee the best days of the NBA's new MVP-in-waiting. Rather than let Williams enter the 2015-16 campaign under a lame-duck cloud, the Pelicans decided to move on without their coach of the last five years on Tuesday.
"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," Pelicans executive vice president Mickey Loomis said in an official statement. "... While we continue to work towards improving our roster, we decided that now was the time to make this decision."
Williams offered a remarkably candid reaction to the news in the video below:
The timing of the dismissal seems a bit curious at first.
Last month, Williams delivered the organization its first playoff bid in four seasons. And though the Pelicans were swept out of the first round, they made the top-seeded Golden State Warriors sweat a few times.
Even stranger still is that New Orleans seemed content with the year it had.
Three Pelicans starters, including Davis, lost double-digit games to injuries, as did uber-valuable sixth man Ryan Anderson. And this team still survived the Western Conference minefield and cemented its postseason berth with an impressive 108-103 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on the final night of the regular season.
Pelicans owner Tom Benson sent his coaches, players and front-office staff a congratulatory letter after the year. According to TNT's David Aldridge, Benson also didn't hide his admiration for Williams during the team's first-round playoff series:
But none of the above—the 45 wins, the end of the playoff drought, the private and public praise—ultimately saved Williams.
"General manager Dell Demps had been wrestling for greater control of the franchise and pushed out Williams," wrote Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. "Around Williams' staff this season, there was a sense of decreasing management support and unnecessary obstacles, league sources told Yahoo Sports."
Loomis, however, said the organization made the decision together, via John Reid of the Times-Picayune:
Williams' injury-riddled roster supplied enough obstacles on its own. Of the team's top five scorers, only one (Tyreke Evans) missed fewer than 14 games.
It's impossible to ignore the damage done by the injury bug. And it's even harder to overlook the obviously strong relationship Williams enjoyed with Davis.
The coach has been at the helm for each of Davis' first three seasons in the league. The two also helped Team USA capture gold at last summer's FIBA World Cup.
Under Williams' watch, Davis blossomed from a physical freak to a statistical monster. His last two years have been a series of new personal bests, highlighted by this season's 30.8 player efficiency rating—a number that only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James ever bettered.
The Pelicans had to take all of that into account before deciding that the grass might be greener without Williams. Given the upward trajectory this group had taken (from 21 wins in 2011-12 to 45 victories this year), the move might look, sound and feel like a hasty mistake.
But it isn't one.
Rather, it's a calculated risk that could deliver these players somewhere Williams was incapable of taking them. Having Davis alone gives New Orleans a puncher's chance at title contention. Now the Pellies need to find a coach with more knockout power than Williams.
"The Pelicans made it clear on Tuesday morning that they're not content with good enough and want to be back in the playoffs next season," wrote Hardwood Paroxysm's Derek James. "It was also clear that they didn't feel that Williams was the coach best suited to accomplish that task."
For all of the excuses at Williams' disposal, none could forgive his potentially fatal flaw: He hadn't been able to build a championship-level defense (or even an average one), despite having both Davis and rim protector Omer Asik anchoring the interior.
During Williams' first season, New Orleans tied for eighth in defensive efficiency. But that roster had an elite stopper at every level: Paul in the backcourt, Trevor Ariza on the wing and Emeka Okafor underneath. When Paul bolted from the Big Easy in 2011, he took this team's defensive respectability with him.
Over the last four seasons, the Pelicans have ranked 16th, 28th, 26th and 22nd in defensive efficiency. There isn't an offense explosive enough to compensate for that level of shoddy defense.
Maybe the problem could have improved over time, but New Orleans wisely realized it doesn't have a lot to spare.
That probably sounds strange, since Davis is only 22 and already entrenched among the league's elites. But the young transcendent talent is the reason the Pellies were right to make this gamble.
For one, they have a chance either this summer or next to lock him into the first-long term contract of his career. They are reportedly (and unsurprisingly) prepared to offer him a five-year max deal that could be worth more than $140 million, league sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
As much as Williams' relationship with Davis could have helped at the negotiating table, nothing will capture the Brow's attention more than wins. (Remember how worried everyone was about the Golden State Warriors swapping out Stephen Curry's guy Mark Jackson for Steve Kerr? How'd that work out?)
Davis knew before this announcement was made that losing Williams was a real possibility.
''If they are here or they are not here or something don't go a certain way, it's the business of basketball,'' Davis said of Williams and Demps in late April, via Reid. ''... Coach always say it's a business. He tells all the guys whether I'm here, whether you're here (or) anybody's here, you know it's a business.''
In this business, it's the front office's responsibility to constantly seek out improvements. The Pelicans might have liked Williams, but they obviously saw a chance to upgrade their coaching position.
And with Davis as a recruiting tool, they should hold major weight with any coaching candidates.
"New Orleans should have its pick of replacements for Williams," wrote ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton. "The chance to coach the league's best young player is one any coach would desire, especially in comparison to the question marks that surround the other available jobs in Denver and Orlando."
Who might New Orleans target? The Pelicans might be keeping a close eye on Tom Thibodeau's situation with the Chicago Bulls:
And Reid added that former Oklahoma City Thunder frontman Scott Brooks might be a name to watch:
The one common thread between Thibodeau and Brooks? Both have overseen elite defenses, which could be the missing piece of the Pelicans' championship puzzle.
Even with all their injuries, they had a top-10 offensive attack this season. When they reconvene next fall, they might have a three-point-shooting Davis leading the way. That's scary enough to type, let alone try to contain.
The Pelicans were heading in the right direction with Williams, but it was hard to tell how much further he could lead them, and how quickly. Bringing in the right replacement could both speed up this process and lead to a more fulfilling conclusion.
New Orleans signaled to Davis—and the rest of the league—that it's eyeing something more than a postseason berth. If the Pellies play this right, this could be the moment that propels them into full-fledged championship contention.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.
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