The Pelicans won the late-season battle with the Thunder to obtain the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and did so by beating a very good Spurs team in the final game of the regular season.
Ownership in New Orleans had reportedly told both GM Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams that making the postseason was necessary in order to retain their jobs. But at least with Williams, evidently, that changed.
The Pelicans informed Williams that he will not be back as head coach, the team announced on Tuesday via official release.
“I have the utmost respect for Monty Williams, not only as a coach but as a person,” said Pelicans Owner Tom Benson. “He represented our team, our organization and our city with tremendous class and dignity. Gayle and I grew very fond of Monty and his wife Ingrid and of course their five beautiful children. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
“Making a decision like this is never easy and is never done hastily, especially when you are dealing with a person of Monty Williams’ character. We thanked Monty for the tremendous work and commitment he made to our organization and the development of our young players, specifically Anthony Davis,” said Pelicans Executive Vice President Mickey Loomis. “While we continue to work towards improving our roster, we decided that now was the time to make this decision. We wish nothing but the best for Monty in the future.”
“We thank Monty for his dedication and leadership to our team both on and off the court,” Demps said. “He served as a great role model for our young team and worked tirelessly towards the development of all of our players. We endured a lot of change during the past season and Monty was a steady influence in our locker room. We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
The Pelicans improved under Williams in every season since the franchise traded Chris Paul in 2011. New Orleans posted 27, 34 and 45 wins in the seasons that followed, and Williams seemed to have built a strong relationship with the team’s cornerstone player, Anthony Davis.
This now becomes the most attractive open coaching position in the league, with Denver and Orlando the only other teams currently in need of filling vacancies.
Davis is emerging as one of the game’s top five players, and he’s under contract (at a bare minimum) for two more seasons. But the Pelicans are planning to offer him a monster $140 million contract extension this summer to lock him up for the foreseeable future.