Devin Booker and new Suns coach Monty Williams establish relationship beyond basketball
by Duane Rankin
Devin Booker can't recall ever having an issue with a head coach.
"I've never had a problem with my coach in my life since grade school," Booker said.
And he's has had its share of them so far.
Monty Williams will be his fifth coach in five NBA seasons. With such instability at that position, Williams understands if Booker isn't 100% sold on the situation.
"He doesn’t have to trust me right now," Williams said Monday at Suns media day. "That's something that you build over time. I think if a guy came in this summer and was like, 'Coach, I'm with you, I trust you,' I’d be like, dude, that’s not how it works, and I've told guys that. You don’t have to trust me now. Over time, you will, but right now, you don't, and I expect nothing less from Devin."
No worries, coach.
Booker said Williams already has his trust.
"I'm here to learn from him," Booker said. "Whatever he needs from me, that's what I'm going to do. I'm earning his trust if anything."
The head coach-star player relationship is an important one which usually develops over time. Booker hasn’t had an NBA head coach long enough to establish a bond, but he seems fond of his new coach.
"He's real down to earth," Booker said. "A class act. A real gentleman. A lot of our conversations haven't even been about basketball yet. We've gone to a few dinners and a lot of it is about life. That's what's important to me. Once you develop that relationship, especially with your head coach to where it's bigger than Xs and Os. Our conversations have been much deeper than that. It's been really good."
The Xs and Os will become more important as the Suns begin training camp Tuesday in Flagstaff. Williams already has a growing number of plays he can share with his team."
I walk down the office every day and I see more and more plays going up on the board," Suns General Manager James Jones said. "I'm pretty sure you can't run that many plays in an NBA game, but he'll have enough to run if he needs it. I see that excitement, that desire and willingness to embrace the journey and the challenge that's ahead of us."
Rookie Ty Jerome has already seen how much Williams values his playbook.
"He's extremely detailed," Jerome said. "Like obsessively detailed and it's super cool to see. A great basketball mind. Great person off the court. Super competitive and like I said, extremely detailed."
Suns general manager James Jones and head coach Monty Williams address the media gathered at Phoenix Suns Media Day, Monday, September 30, 2019. Tom Tingle, The Republic | azcentral.com
"If you’re like an inch too far to the left or an inch above the break, you're supposed to be on the break," Jerome continued in describing his summer workouts with Williams. "He'll tell you. It's awesome."
Williams has a veteran at the point in Ricky Rubio, who can orchestrate the offense and give Phoenix stability.
"I want to be able to get out the way," Williams said. "That's why I was so happy with Ricky. He allows you to give him the reins and let him go."
Williams has his coach the floor, but Booker is the team leader and its go-to player. His chemistry with Booker is of the utmost importance.
"It's huge because you have another voice on the floor," Suns point guard Tyler Johnson, who saw firsthand how Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade worked together while in Miami.
"At the end of the day, Monty can put is in whatever position we want to be put in, but he can't score a basket for us this year. He can't make a play for us this year. It's all about the players who make these plays. That's why it's so important to have somebody on the court who is seeing the same thing."
As important as Booker is, he’s not the only player Williams is coaching.
The former Philadelphia assistant, who was a head coach in New Orleans, has the task of putting together a roster that has undergone several changes.
The Suns not only signed Rubio in free agency, but traded for Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and Jevon Carter. They also drafted Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome and added Frank Kaminsky, Cheick Diallo and Jalen Lecque.
"We've added some maturity and we have a good mix of people. You can put the playing aside, but we have some really good people. When you can put a bunch of good guys together in a room and ask them to work together to kind of turn this thing around, you'll see what we see on a daily basis, which is enthusiasm. I think that's the foundation for growth."
Kelly Oubre Jr., Tyler Johnson, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo and Booker are all back, but Williams must find away to mesh them together with the Suns' acquisitions.
"The main thing is just getting to know one another, off the floor and on the floor," Williams said. "Spending a lot of time together. I think that's why guys taking time out of their schedule this summer to come here is huge. Most teams are doing it. So we're not different, but I think we want to be able to make it meaningful. We don't want to get together just to get together."