Sixers assistant Monty Williams ready to return to coaching

by Sarah Todd, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Monty Williams has spent nearly his entire life in basketball, as a player or a coach, but tragedy struck a little over two years ago and it wasn't clear when he would return to the game.

"It's a great time for me to get back to full-time coaching. It was Brett [Brown], it was the team. I've played here before so I kind of know the culture of the city," Williams said Monday night at Brown's annual coaching clinic. "Most importantly, my family was ready for me to get back into coaching."

In February 2016, when Williams was an associate head coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder, less than a year removed from his head coaching position with the New Orleans Pelicans, his wife, Ingrid, died from injuries she suffered in a car accident. She was 44.

In June 2016, Williams walked away from coaching and took a job in the front office of the San Antonio Spurs, where he had been a player from 1996-98 and where he became close with Brown, who was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich.

Williams, 46, has said before that he would return to coaching when he was ready, but with five children to think about, it was going to take time. The right time presented itself this summer.

Former assistant coach Lloyd Pierce took the head coaching job with the Atlanta Hawks, opening a spot with the Sixers.

Williams said the position was on his radar but he didn't know what was going to happen.

"My agent called me one day and started talking about Philly and I got excited," he said. "I didn't know where Brett was going with the staff, so I didn't call Brett or anything."

But once he knew that he was headed to Philadelphia to return to coaching full-time, he started getting even more excited.

Even with the Bryan Colangelo saga that unfolded in the offseason, it only made Williams more sure that he'd made the right decision.

"I saw Brett handle it with such grace and strength, and for me, that was inviting," he said. "I want to be around guys like that. When things don't go the way you want them to go, to have a leader handle it that way and not duck the tough questions, for me, that's inviting."

As far as his role on the coaching staff, Williams will be focusing his energy on the offense, on play calling and situational coaching but says that Brown has given him and the rest of the staff the freedom to chime in whenever they feel it's necessary.

"My main focus will be with the offense … but he's always telling me to coach," Williams said of Brown. "Brett doesn't put a limit on what you do, that's why a number of the guys that have been here have grown so much."

As for his new team and the young talent, Williams said he's been impressed by the competitiveness and work ethic he's seen from the Sixers' stars, including Ben Simmons, who Williams said has been in the gym at 8 a.m. every day that he is in town.

Williams has missed coaching. He has missed the meetings, strategy sessions, coming up with game plans, being around the team. He has missed everything about being a full-time coach and is ready to dive right in.