Suns fire head coach Monty Williams after NBA playoffs elimination

Monty Williams once led the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. He won't get another chance to take them back.

The Suns fired Williams on Saturday, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, two days after their elimination by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. That disappointing exit left the Suns with some uncomfortable questions, one of which has now been answered.

Williams' Suns tenure ends after four seasons, in which he posted a 194-115 record and won NBA Coach of the Year in 2022. That span was highlighted by a trip to the 2021 NBA Finals, where the Suns lost in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks, who also fired their coach, Mike Budenholzer, this week.

Firing a head coach with that track record is reflective of the high expectations the Suns face with a core led by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker and also the perils of being a head coach after an ownership change. Mortgage billionaire Mat Ishbia purchased the team from Robert Sarver late last year.

The firing might not be a cheap one for the Suns either, as Williams signed a pricey contract extension last summer that was set to go into effect in 2024. However, Williams was reported by Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer to be a potential candidate for the Bucks' coaching vacancy.

Where do the Suns go from here?

Firing Williams is the Suns' first big move of the offseason, but it almost certainly won't be the last.

The Suns went all-in this season by trading Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and a plethora of draft picks for Durant (and T.J. Warren). The season ended in disappointment, as the Suns' lack of depth and injuries to Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul left them with few answers for the Nuggets.

Now, both Paul and Ayton face murky futures in Phoenix.

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams in the first half of Game 2 of an NBA second-round playoff series Monday, May 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Monty Williams is done with the Suns after four seasons. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Only $15.8 million of the 38-year-old Paul's $30.8 million salary is guaranteed for next season, and the team could look to move in favor of a younger point guard. Fischer reported the Suns left rival teams with the impression they were searching for a long-term Paul replacement before they pulled the trigger on the Durant trade, and they have been linked by league personnel to names like Fred VanVleet and Terry Rozier.

Ayton, the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers last offseason, which the Suns matched. A trade seems very possible for a big man who never quite met high expectations in Phoenix, but could still be worth the price to a less cap space-strapped team.

Barring an Ayton or Paul trade, the Suns face a cap crunch, especially due to the addition of the NBA's second, more punitive tax apron. Firing Williams won't help with that, but it does signal the Suns are willing to act boldly if it can help them stay among the NBA's elite.