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Is the Pelicans Anti-Player’s Coach Monty Williams Loved?

Pelicans Head Coach Monty Williams is not a player’s coach and on a team where every player has less than 6 years in the NBA, one might think ‘kid gloves’ would be the order of the day. However, Williams says he doesn’t have time for that. He’s here to teach, like it or not and if his players want to, they can be friends later.

“I always tell the guys we can be friends later,” Williams said. “You can get better now, so you have to figure out which one you want. We can be friends now and you suffer.”

Williams believes that deep down this is what his players want and they’ll love him for it later. It is his job to be hard on them so they develop as quickly as possible.

“I am probably hard on everybody except my wife,” Williams said. “It is just the nature of coaching. Great players want you to coach them. It just depends on who you are. Some people look at it as me being hard on them and some people look on it as coaching, but my job is to make guys better and I don’t get caught up in trying to be somebody’s friend, I have to make them better. I guess now-a-days, it’s called a player’s coach and I am probably the furthest thing from that. I don’t really know what that is, I have to make guys better, so I am always demanding the things that I think they need.”

There is evidence Williams is right. Last season, Greivis Vasquez led the NBA in total assists and Williams says he was especially hard on his young point guard, but he is beyond proud of what Vasquez accomplished.

“Greivis probably don’t want to see me,” Williams said. “I was so tough on him, he probably will start itching or sweating as soon as he sees me thinking I am going to yell at him or something, but he was a bright spot for me, a big-time flagship for our P.D. (player development) program. A guy who came in and worked his tail off, had his best year with us and I was fortunate to be able to coach Greivis – another guy that I was really tough on.”

SAC_Vasquez_GreivisWhen Vasquez saw Williams standing outside of the visitor’s locker room in Toronto, however, the reaction was completely different. It was all love and hugs between the player and his former coach.

“I was just talking about you,” Williams said. “I said you were going to start itching and sweating when you see me. Hey, that was a Hallmark moment. We might have to do a commercial.”

Vasquez’s response wasn’t anything new for Williams.

“The players want it,” Williams said. “After-the-fact they like me, but at the time they are with me, they run from me. I have had a lot of players like that – that have left and they are like – ‘Coach I love you’, but when they are with me its like, ‘That dude is crazy. He doesn’t even cuss at me, but he makes me feel so small every day, I don’t like him,’ but when they leave, they realize you want to help them get better.”

Williams doesn’t let up on the Pelicans newest All-Star Anthony Davis either. At 20-years-old, Davis has a lot to learn, Williams has a lot to teach and being a nice guy doesn’t figure into it.

“There is a lot for (Davis) to improve upon,” Williams explained. “He is going to have to mentally understand that people are going to come after him every night. He has to read defenses better. He has to work on his counters. He is so good on his first move, now he has to learn how to work on his counter when teams take it away and when you are 20, you have a lot to improve upon.”

Outside of a few teams, having a wealth of older veterans to lead the rookies and young players has become a thing of the past. The job of teacher, leader and disciplinarian often falls on the coach without the benefit of a locker room presence to back him up. Williams uses his own NBA experience to try and provide what his veterans did for him as a player.

“It is a challenge, but it is what it is. I can’t cry about things I don’t have,” Williams said. “I had really good vets. I had Herb Williams, Patrick Ewing and Derek Harper, but the league isn’t that way anymore. You are not going to have 4 or 5 guys on your team that are 34-years-old, it’s just not that way anymore. My vets would tell me to shut up and you just shut up. They tell you to go get the balls and you go get them and that was just the way it was, but they were also the same guys that had you at their house at night for dinner, so it’s a different league now, so coaches have to step up and be vets on their team.”

Williams has a tough job in New Orleans and between the youth, inexperience and untimely injuries, it isn’t about to get easier anytime soon. However, players that want to be coached get better under his tutelage, even if they think he might be crazy at the time and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that players do love Williams when they realize how much better they’ve become because of him.


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.