Monty Williams and James Jones are making history. They are the only Black head coach-GM duo in the NBA and are 10 games away from becoming the first duo of such kind to win an NBA Championship.
Both men have NBA pedigree.
Williams overcame a heart condition to be drafted by the New York Knicks with the 24th overall pick in 1994. He went on to play almost a decade in the league and was a coaching intern for the San Antonio Spurs when they won the title in 2005. He’s an extension of Gregg Popovich’s vast and diverse coaching tree.
Jones was a second-round pick in 2003 who enjoyed a 14-year career with three championships.
The two men have already proved that they have the intellectual capacity to help rebuild a franchise, nurture young talent, add the proper veterans and grow into championship-caliber without hoarding the free agent market for a quick fix.
The addition of Chris Paul just put the finishing touches on a masterpiece in the making. Williams and Jones did all of the heavy lifting, executing a chess game that left them in a strong position to clear the board.
Williams’ second stint as a head coach (he coached the New Orleans Pelicans to a 173-221 record over five seasons) has highlighted his prowess as a sideline stalker.
Jones, a former Suns forward, was promoted to full-time general manager on April 11, 2019. He’s definitely a candidate for NBA GM of the Year.
The Suns were 19-63 the year before Williams arrived in the desert. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton were already there and young promising players in need of some direction.
When Williams came, Phoenix elevated to 34 wins and was undefeated in the Covid Bubble, giving people a glimpse of the dominance that would help them elevate to the top of the Western Conference regular season standings, just 1 game behind Utah.
The struggles of African Americans to be hired to leadership positions in a league that’s predominately Black is well documented.
We couldn’t possibly ignore the accomplishments of these two Black men who are operating under a different set of standards and under a microscope as the intellectual prowess of potential Black front office hires and coaches has been devalued due to years of systemic oppression and false narratives surrounding race.
Roughly 80% of the NBA’s players are Black. And yet, just nine of its 30 teams are coached by non-white men, seven of whom are Black (Charlotte’s James Borrego is Latino, and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra is Filipino). There is but a single Black president of basketball operations, in the Raptors’ Masai Ujiri (and two VPs, in OKC’s Will Dawkins and Memphis’ Tayshaun Prince). And there are only 10 Black general managers and nine Black assistant GMs.
Viewed through that prism, it seems fair to say that the NBA itself has a diversity problem in its positions of leadership.
And, to be fair, they’ve acknowledged as much.
That’s why the presence of James Jones and Monty Williams, recently voted NBA’s Coach of the Year, is important and historical.
Their ability to develop a team of young talents, bring CP3 into the fold as the missing piece and nurture their young superstars while keeping the franchise financially viable can’t be understated.
Williams has outcoached the opposing sideline stalkers in these playoffs. Upsetting LeBron James, AD and the World Champion Lakers was no fluke.
Williams outmaneuvered Frank Vogel and he’s been schooling Nuggets coach Michael Malone, a guy with decades of coaching experience, in this second-round series.
For some reason, Phoenix has never been a desirable destination for free agents and fringe fans, but this current group has elevated in popularity and is beginning to convince the NBA world that a new era is coming.
It will be hard for any team to defeat the Brooklyn Nets and the Suns still have to win games to advance past this series, but the fact that the Phoenix Suns are relevant again and in the championship mix, forces us to give major props to the brothers leading the way and making executive decisions.
Myths and stereotypes be damned.