Pelicans’ Monty Williams is toast of the town
BY LYONS YELLIN GANNETT, THE TIMES
NEW ORLEANS – For New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams, Wednesday night’s playoff-clinching victory of the San Antonio Spurs was special. It’s been four years since he last led his team to the postseason.
He’s heard the whispers. He knew the stakes. And a few weeks ago, his future in the Big Easy seemed bleak.
Now, however, he’s the toast of the town.
Still, the road back to NBA Playoffs has been a long and arduous one for Williams and his team. Yet through the tough times, and despite his many doubters and detractors, the soft-spoken coach endured.
“We’ve been through a lot here,” Williams said following Wednesday’s win. “When I first got here we had a team that was pretty good and all those guys left. And when you strip something down it take a lot of work, a lot of emotion. There’s gonna be some setbacks and we’ve dealt with a lot — things that I can even talk about on camera. I’ve dealt with a lot to get to that moment.”
It’s one that nearly brought the stoic coach to tears following Wednesday night’s playoff-clinching win over the defending NBA champs.
It was a moment that less than a month ago appeared might never happen.
After New Orleans lost its fourth straight on March 25 to fall behind both Oklahoma City and Phoenix for the final playoff spot, his future in New Orleans seemed tenuous at best. Fans wanted change. The loudest among them were demanding he go.
“Fans need to get on board,” Pelicans forward Quincy Pondexter said. “If you’re a bandwagon fan you should pick us. If you don’t have a team yet come and pick us.
“If you haven’t been happy with our performances in the past years, we’re back now, so you might as well be a fan. We’re doing a hell of job here and coach Monty Williams deserves more credit than what he’s getting. I’m proud to see how much he’s grown as a coach over these last few years.
“I’m excited right now.”
As is the city, which now celebrates the team and its once-embattled coach, as only it can.