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Phoenix Suns fire Monty Williams as coach after NBA play-off exit

LOS ANGELES – Monty Williams, last season’s National Basketball Association (NBA) Coach of the Year, has been fired as coach of the Phoenix Suns after their second-round play-off loss to the Denver Nuggets, the team said on Saturday.

Williams went 194-115 in four seasons with the Suns, but was dumped only two days after the Nuggets ousted the Suns 4-2 in their best-of-seven Western Conference series.

“We are filled with gratitude for everything Monty has contributed to the Suns and to the Valley community,” said Suns president of basketball operations James Jones in a tweet, confirming multiple reports of the firing.

The visiting Nuggets prevailed 125-100 in a must-win game for the Suns, who trailed by 30 points at half-time.

Williams took responsibility after that defeat, saying: “I take that personally, not having our team ready to play in the biggest game of the year. That’s something that I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen... That’s something I have to take a deep look at, everything I’m doing.”

New Suns owner Mat Ishbia made the decision to fire Williams on Saturday, ESPN reported.

The Suns made a blockbuster deal to obtain Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets at the February trade deadline but an ankle injury limited him to only eight regular-season games for Phoenix.

Williams, who has an overall NBA coaching record of 367-336 in five seasons with New Orleans and four with the Suns, had guided the Suns into the 2021 NBA Finals, where they lost to Milwaukee, before Phoenix went down in the second round the past two seasons.

His record in the post-season in Phoenix is 27-19. The Suns won a franchise record 64 games in 2021-22.

With Durant and Devin Booker signed to long-term deals, the Suns will be an attractive destination for any coach.

Williams, 51, joins the Toronto Raptors’ Nick Nurse and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer as coaches to be fired this year after being voted NBA Coach of the Year over the past five seasons. AFP, REUTERS