Finally, somebody from the Phoenix Suns organization is getting the respect they deserve. This week, head coach Monty Williams was named NBA Coach of the Year, and it’s about damn time. Williams ran away with the voting racking up 81 first-place votes for a grand total of 458. Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins finished second with 270 total votes.
Williams becomes the 10th African American head coach to win the league’s highest-coaching honor. In all honesty, he should’ve won it last year but was beatenMonty out by Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks. There hasn’t been a Black coach to win multiple Coach of the Year awards, but Williams will have a good shot of becoming the first to do that over the next couple of seasons.
Last season, the Suns were the league’s surprise team, winning 51 games, finishing second in the West, and making the postseason for the first time in a decade. This season Phoenix continued that upward trend, winning 64 games, and finishing with the best record in the entire NBA by eight games.
I would’ve lost all faith in NBA awards voters had Williams been snubbed for a second consecutive year. Coach Williams can make even more history this season should his Suns go all the way. If Phoenix were to win the NBA Finals, Williams would become the seventh African American head coach to lead his team to an NBA title. But don’t get it twisted, Williams isn’t the only Black coach making some noise around The Association, as Ime Udoka has the Boston Celtics clicking. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say we could see another Black man win Coach of the Year very soon.
In his first season as head coach, Udoka led the Celtics to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference with 51 wins. After a slow start to the season, the Celtics were the best team in the league from January on, and now they’re in an excellent position to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s not bad for a first-time, first-year head coach. Udoka finished fourth in the COY balloting, and I expect him to continue climbing that mountain.
Ty Lue could also have a great chance to win the award if his best players ever get healthy and stay healthy at the same time. Kawhi Leonard missed all of the 2021-22 campaign, and even with him out, the Clippers were still able to keep themselves in the mix in the West until Paul George went down with an injury that sidelined him for three months. Should Lue get his guys back next season, I expect the Clippers to make a run at winning the West, putting their coach in line for the award.
Jason Kidd in Dallas is another coach I expect to be in the running over the next handful of years for Coach of the Year. Anytime you have a transcendent talent like Luka Dončić, you’ve got a shot at accomplishing some things. The Dallas Mavericks finished fourth in the west, and Kidd tied Lue for sixth place in COY voting. Kidd’s imprint on this team was visible all year in the way they improved dramatically on the defensive end of the court.
Then, of course, you have other veteran coaches like Doc Rivers and Nate McMillan, who could also throw their names in the hat in a given year. J.B. Bickerstaff is another Black coach with a young team in Cleveland that feels like they’re on the come-up and should be paid close attention to. If the Pelicans ever get Zion Williamson back on board and healthy, look for Willie Green to be included in this conversation very soon.
Nearly half the teams in the NBA currently employ Black head coaches. From 2006 to 2009, Black coaches won the award each year. Avery Johnson (Dallas 2006), Sam Mitchell (Toronto 2008), Byron Scott (New Orleans Hornets 2008), and Mike Brown (Cleveland 2009). Another run like this could be on the horizon.