The NBA Finals are awash with cameras and microphones. One of them captured an interaction that went viral after Game 2.
Monty Williams was the Phoenix coach, speaking only to Suns center DeandreAyton during a timeout and trying to cheer him up after a disappointing night statistically against Milwaukee Bucks. Ayton was clearly unable to concentrate. His body language was terrible. Williams was not having it. Williams was not having it. He began talking and then grabbed Ayton by the wrist to command his attention.
His voice was raised just high enough so that Ayton could hear him above the noise of the crowd. There was no screaming, yelling or swearing.
Williams stated, “You set high standards for yourself.” Williams said, “That’s why your down. That’s fantastic. Okay, now go to that level. You can do it with force. It doesn’t need to be stats every time. You can set a high standard for yourself by dominating the game with force. You must dominate the game. Let’s get started.
Ayton scored just after the timeout ended. He got a steal a few seconds later. A few minutes later, Milwaukee was within six points and still holding hope, Ayton found Chris Paul to make a 3-pointer. The Bucks never got within two possessions of tie the game again.
This moment was representative of the whole season.
Williams has always pushed the right button.
It was a part of why the Suns are up by 2-0 in the NBA Finals. They are just two wins away of the franchise’s first championship and Williams was named the league’s best coach by his peers this season. This is also why others are beginning to realize that Williams is the real deal.
Williams stated, “You are giving my a lot credit.” “I try my best to be authentic. Sometimes I won’t say much in a huddle. The huddle will be run by the guys. However, I try to encourage the guys in huddles. I don’t like to make up stuff.
“I understand what it feels like to be in those meetings and you want the truth. But sometimes you need a little encouragement or a pep-talk. I try to be authentic and speak from my heart.
Williams did not get there by chance. He was a player for Pat Riley, Don Nelson, and Larry Brown — all of whom are members of the Basketball Hall of Fame. He also played for Doc Rivers, Mike D’Antoni and others. He was a player for Gregg Popovich and then worked as a coach intern for Popovich before becoming the vice president of basketball operations in San Antonio.
Popovich stated that he knew Williams was unique from the beginning.
Popovich stated that he is a “fine basketball coach”, this week in Las Vegas as he and the U.S. Olympic team prepare for the Tokyo Games. Popovich said that his ability to connect with players and to be sincere, to be open, to be real, to be honest, without smoke screens, is what makes him a genuine, caring, loving man. It’s there, and players respond to it.
Popovich wants to help the Americans win a gold medal. This would be their fourth consecutive Olympic title. Williams was the assistant coach of the U.S. team that won gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2005, six months after Williams’s wife Ingrid died in a car accident.
His wife’s eulogy was delivered by him, using scripture to speak of his faith in God. He also reminded fellow mourners that the families of the deceased driver needed prayers. It was an act of extraordinary class, courage, and strength.
Popovich stated, “He’s an extraordinary man.”
Also, a special coach.
Over the past five seasons, the Suns were the worst basketball team. They were the worst. They are just two wins away of becoming the best team worldwide, with a dynamic young pair — Devin Booker, U.S. Olympian — and a coach in Chris Paul. Their 16-season wait for a NBA title may be coming to an end soon.
They put in the effort and Williams wants to give them all the credit. They are certainly worthy of all the credit, but Williams was the one who created the structure for how this team could win. He then let his players decide how to succeed.
Williams shrugs, “I tell our men to go hoop!”
He makes it seem simple and easy. That is what only the greatest can do.