Suns Coach Monty Williams in COVID-19 Protocols, Who will Step Up?

Phoenix Suns, Monty Williams (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Monty Williams (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns ran from it longer than most, successfully ducking around three different cities and keeping their heads down during four other games at home. But alas, the chase now seems over, as the recent COVID-19 surge finally caught up to them today.

About two weeks after the pandemic’s latest spike started swallowing up NBA rosters left and right, this monster now sinks its teeth into the Suns, fresh off a disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors. Just yesterday, starting power forward Jae Crowder entered league health and safety protocols, followed shortly by back up guard Elfrid Payton.

But this afternoon, the team took an even larger punch to the gut, losing head coach Monty Williams to protocols. Entering his own quarantine now, the Suns must play without him for tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and almost certainly during a few other contests down the line.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, associate head coach Kevin Young stands as the most likely candidate to replace Williams for the foreseeable future. Both under Brett Brown, Young worked beside Williams with the Philadelphia 76ers from 2016-2020. He then came with Williams to the Suns as an assistant coach two offseasons ago, helping Phoenix reach the Finals last year. This summer, the Suns promoted him to associate head coach.

Essentially as Williams’s “right hand man,” Young represents a solid pair of hands for the Suns to fall into amidst this tough break. But aside from him, a few other figures on this team must step up to help weather the storm minus Williams.

As the team’s most obvious leader on the court, significant responsibility now falls onto Chris Paul’s shoulders. Across the entire Suns bench, including both coaching and playing years, Paul carries more NBA experience than anyone. All too frequently, his teammates look to him for guidance during critical game situations, so with these upcoming games, watch for him to continue that but to an even wider extent, with secondary coaches like Young following his lead, rather than the other way around.

Being a recently turned player into coach, Jarrett Jack also feels like a strong presence needed to keep the Suns afloat right now. Paul and Jack also came into the NBA the same year, so his experience stacks up well with that of CP3’s. But as someone who knows what it takes to succeed as a player better than anyone else on Phoenix’s coaching staff, he likely already earned the trust of Phoenix’s players, and should use that to his advantage while guiding and motivating them during this run.

But all the while, do not let age and experience dictate everything with Williams gone. Just last year, Devin Booker illustrated noteworthy leadership even with Paul, Williams, and Young all by his side.

During the Western Conference Finals last summer, Booker famously snatched the whiteboard from Monty Williams during a key moment in Game 6. After doing so, he called all his teammates around him, and started drawing up plays.

It went down as a short and somewhat insignificant moment when you compare it to that game’s grander schemes, but nonetheless, Booker clearly possesses enough confidence to run things for this team, and his teammates simultaneously respect him in something of an authoritative role.

Next. How Booker's 3-Pointer has made the Suns Unbeatable. dark

With that, watch for him, Paul, Jack and Young to all work as a unit while moving forward without Williams. After playing the Grizzlies, Phoenix goes toe-to-toe with a flurry of talented teams, including the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Miami Heat, who will certainly test this makeshift coaching staff at a high level.