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Robert Sarver was instrumental in Phoenix Suns landing Monty Williams

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 5/21/2019 Duane Rankin

Monty Williams was already excited about the opportunity to coach the Phoenix Suns.

"These jobs are hard to come by," Williams said. "There's only 30 (NBA head coaching jobs) and when someone commits to you being a head coach, that's a huge thing."

General Manager James Jones liked him — a lot.

"After our first meeting, I knew that if there was an opportunity to to get him here, that we had to do it," Jones said. 

As much as those two connected, a conversation Williams had with team owner Robert Sarver proved to be pivotal in the Suns landing the guy they wanted.  

"In my conversations with Mr. Sarver, I saw someone who didn't duck the tough questions," Williams said. "We both had tough questions for each other and in this day and age where people throw each other under the bus, make excuses, blame; I didn't see that. I saw a man who really wants to bring success to this city and I mean that with all of my heart or I wouldn't have come here."  

James Jones, Monty Williams are posing for a picture: Monty Williams was introduced as the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns during a news conference on May 21 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. © Rob Schumacher/The Republic Monty Williams was introduced as the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns during a news conference on May 21 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

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Williams provided insight into his talk with the team owner during his introductory news conference Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

"James and I are a lot a like in that we just want to do the right thing and I saw that with Mr. Sarver," Williams continued. "For him to take ownership of his past was huge for me because I had to do the same thing. He had tough questions for me and if you look at my past, I've done some things, said some things in the media I wish I could've taken back. So that's what I saw." 

Williams, 47, will be Phoenix’s fifth coach in five seasons, but he signed a five-year deal which will provide more stability that the Suns desperately need at that position.

"It'll be a combination of things," Williams said when asked why he'll succeed in Phoenix when the previous coaches haven't in recent years.

"Continuity, having a staff here for a while and putting in a system that the players can rely upon, but ultimately it will come down to James, myself and the players pushing this thing forward. The players are going to have to embrace a level of work and commitment that it takes to be a champion." 

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Williams replaces Igor Kokoskov, who went 19-63 in his one and only season as an NBA head coach.

"They’re getting a special person on and off," Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand said during last week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "The relationships he has with his players, the environment he provides, they’ve got a special coach."

The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 when they reached the Western Conference finals under Alvin Gentry. They’ve posted five consecutive losing seasons, failed to win at least 25 games in the last four seasons and had the NBA’s second-worst record this past season after posting the worst record in the league in 2017-18.

Williams takes over a team that’s not only been losing, but he has become accustomed to losing. His biggest challenge might be changing the culture and mindset of a floundering franchise under Sarver.

"Everybody here wants to win and that's the main goal and I think he's going to lead us to that," Suns forward Mikal Bridges said. "I know what he's going to want out of all of us and that he's going to push us and I think that's what we need. People to push us to be really good, be great. I think he's that right person." 

Unlike Kokoskov, Williams has more than one year of NBA head coaching experience. He went 173-221 in five seasons in New Orleans, which included a pair of playoff appearances (2011, 2015).

He was an associate head coach at Oklahoma City from 2015-16 before his wife was killed in a head-on vehicle collision.

Williams stepped away from coaching, worked two years in the San Antonio Spurs' front office, before returning to coaching as an assistant in Philadelphia this past season.

The 76ers reached the playoffs this season for a second consecutive year, but lost to the Toronto Raptors in a best-of-seven on a buzzer-beater by Kawhi Leonard in Game 7.

The Suns hired Williams during the Toronto-Philadelphia series early this month. When that series ended, Williams began making the transition from Philadelphia to Phoenix.

"Monty is a man of integrity," Jones said. "A very good coach. A very good man. His experience in all facets of basketball as a coach, player development on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball, in the front office gives him a unique perspective that I think is well suited for our franchise." 

He’s now in the desert and will look to help Phoenix return to the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade. The Suns have a young core led by Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, who is a finalist for this season’s NBA Rookie of Year award.

Booker finished the regular season tied for fifth in the NBA in scoring with Leonard, as both averaged 26.6 points a game. Ayton averaged a double-double of 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, but that didn’t stop the Suns from losing a franchise record 17 games in a row.

That’s what waiting for Williams in Phoenix.

"They're young and the West is really difficult," Williams said. "That's no excuse for 19 wins, but the guys are talented on this team."  

The Suns have the No. 6 overall pick in next month’s draft after falling in the lottery despite sharing the best chance to land the No. 1 overall pick along with New York and Cleveland at 14%.

The Knicks landed the third overall pick while the Cavaliers dropped to fifth.

"That's a big-time pick," Williams said. "I know people were upset that we weren't top-three, but I was like, it wasn't 26th. It was 6th. It's a big-time pick." 

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Robert Sarver was instrumental in Phoenix Suns landing Monty Williams

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