The New Orleans Pelicans fired head coach Monty Williams on Tuesday, parting ways with a coach who had a strong relationship with the franchise’s marquee player, Anthony Davis.
The decision came only weeks after owner Tom Benson congratulated Williams and the entire basketball operations staff for “a job well done” after a season in which New Orleans qualified for its first playoff berth since 2011.
“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,” team president Mickey Loomis said. “We thanked Monty for the tremendous work and commitment he made to our organization and the development of our young players, specifically Anthony Davis.
“While we continue to work towards improving our roster, we decided that now was the time to make this decision,” Loomis added. “We wish nothing but the best for Monty in the future.”
Williams has an overall record of 173-221, with two playoff appearances since landing his first heading coaching job with the Pelicans in 2010.
He also had established a bond with Davis, a 22-year-old All-Star who has one more year on his contract. Williams also coached Davis with Team USA.
“He’s a great coach. The whole team loves him,” Davis said after the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by top-seeded Golen State. “He’s done a lot for this organization since he got here.”
New Orleans made the playoffs in Williams’ first season with guard Chris Paul. Williams then shepherded the franchise through a rebuilding period that included the trade of Paul and a prolonged period of ownership uncertainty during which the NBA took over the club from George Shinn before selling to Benson, who also owns the NFL’s Saints.
After his first season, Williams never seemed to have a stable roster. Even after the club was on sound financial footing following its purchase by Benson, injuries sidelined key players such as guard Jrue Holiday and forward Ryan Anderson for prolonged periods.
Holiday missed half of the past regular season with a leg injury, and Anderson missed several weeks after the All-Star break as the Pelicans made a desperate push to overtake Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot.
But Williams did have Davis, a former first overall draft choice in 2012, who this season averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks.
“We thank Monty for his dedication and leadership to our team both on and off the court,” general manager Dell Demps said. “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.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press