Black Excellence: Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams Voted Coach Of The Year; Four Of The Eight Head Coaches In The Playoffs Are Black

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Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams has been voted coach of the year for the 2021-22 season. The Suns finished with the league’s best record at 64-18. Williams received 81 first-place votes and finished well ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies’ Taylor Jenkins, and the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra; who finished second and third, respectively. Williams is one of 14 Black head coaches in the league showing they can lead franchises to success.

The other Black NBA head coaches are Jason Kidd (Dallas), Nate McMillan (Atlanta), Doc Rivers (Philadelphia), Chauncey Billups (Portland), Dwane Casey (Detroit), Mike Brown (Sacramento), Stephen Silas (Houston), Jamahl Mosley (Orlando), Tyronn Lue (Los Angeles Clippers), J.B. Bickerstaff (Cleveland), Ime Udoka (Boston), Wes Unseld Jr. (Washington) and Willie Green (New Orleans).

Kidd, McMillan, Rivers, Udoka, like Williams, led their teams to the playoffs this season. Bickerstaff has the Cavaliers ahead of schedule and led his team to the play-in tournament. Lue dealt with injuries to his best players all season and still managed to get the Clippers to the play-in.

Seventy-five percent of the NBA’s players identify as Black. The head coaching and front office have trailed behind that number since the league became predominantly Black.

Given the success of Williams and first-year head coaches like Green and Udoka, more opportunities should be given to Black assistants and Black coaches who haven’t followed a traditional NBA path. The same way white coaches with no NBA experience are afforded opportunities.

If the Celtics or 76ers advance out of the Eastern Conference and the Mavericks or Suns emerge from the West, we would have an all-Black head coach NBA Finals.

This is the first NBA coach of the year award for Williams, who joins Cotton Fitzsimmons (1988-89) and Mike D’Antoni (2004-05) as head coaches to earn the honor with the Phoenix Suns.

Williams finished second in coach of the year voting last season, beaten out out by Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks. Williams’ coaching peers voted him as the National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2021 and again this season.

“If there’s one award that exemplifies team, it’s the Coach of the Year award because there’s not a coach in the NBA that has bad intentions for the program or for the players,” Williams said. “Nobody walks into the gym and hopes that their guys play poorly and tells them not to work and, ‘Please, don’t play defense.’ We don’t do that. In order to get an award like this, it takes a lot of people.”

Williams’ Suns are in a battle in the conference semifinals against Kidd’s Dallas Mavericks. Their best-of-seven series is tied at 2-2 apiece and is now a best-of-three. The home team has won every game in the series so far.

The coaching acumen of both Williams and Kidd are on display in this series. The Mavericks have adjusted defensively to counter the Suns multiple-sided action. They’ve forced the Suns into isolation. Williams and company will have to adjust and get into their sets higher up on the court and earlier in the shot clock to fracture the Mavericks’ well-connected defense.