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Suns fire coach Monty Williams after a second straight embarrassing loss in an elimination game

Monty Williams's Suns teams went 194-115 in his four seasons as coach and made one appearance in the NBA Finals.Matthew Stockman/Getty

The Phoenix Suns fired Monty Williams on Saturday, two years after reaching the NBA Finals and a year after he was the overwhelming choice as the coach of the year, two people with knowledge of the decision said.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the decision.

Williams had great success in his four regular seasons in Phoenix, winning 63 percent of his games. But three consecutive years of playoff frustration was likely too much for the Suns to overlook — especially after two straight years of Phoenix trailing by 30 points at halftime of elimination games at home.


ESPN and The Athletic first reported the decision.

The Suns had a 2-0 lead in the 2021 NBA Finals, only to lose in six games. They lost in the second round in each of the last two seasons, both times in an embarrassing finale — last year to Dallas, this year to Denver.

“Neither day feels good,” Williams said after the loss earlier this week to Denver, when asked to compare last season’s debacle to this year’s season-ending loss.

Saturday likely didn’t feel good either.

The Suns now become yet another high-profile coaching opening, after Toronto fired Nick Nurse and Milwaukee fired Mike Budenholzer. Nurse won the 2019 NBA title with the Raptors, while Budenholzer was the coach who overcame Phoenix’s 2-0 lead in the 2021 finals. The Pistons’ job is also open after Dwane Casey stepped down as coach last month.

It’s the second major decision made by new Suns owner Mat Ishbia in about three months since the closing of the sale that gave him control of the club. In February, Ishbia green-lighted a blockbuster trade that brought Kevin Durant to Phoenix and gave the Suns a core — Durant, Devin Booker, former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, and Chris Paul — that the team hoped would be enough to deliver a title.


The addition of Kevin Durant (left) ahead of this year's trade deadline wasn't enough to get coach Monty Williams and the Suns over the postseason hump.Christian Petersen/Getty

It just didn’t work, at least, not this year. Paul got hurt in the playoffs to continue his run of bad luck on the health front in the postseason, Ayton sat out the finale, and Booker and Durant simply looked gassed by the time it was over.

Williams, after the season ended, blamed himself.

“I take that personally, not having our team ready to play in the biggest game of the year,” he said. “That’s something that I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen … That’s something I have to take a deep look at, everything I’m doing.”

Williams had been the coach with the fifth-longest tenure with his current team entering Saturday — just four years. Gregg Popovich has been coach in San Antonio since 1996, Erik Spoelstra in Miami since 2008, Steve Kerr in Golden State since 2014 and Michael Malone in Denver since 2015.

Of the last nine coaches to take a team to the NBA Finals, only Kerr and Spoelstra are still with the franchise they got to the title series. The others — the Celtics’ Ime Udoka, the Lakers’ Frank Vogel, the Cavaliers’ David Blatt and Tyronn Lue, along with Budenholzer, Nurse, and now Williams — have all been fired by the team that they brought to the Finals.