Monty Williams was fired earlier this month after five seasons coaching the New Orleans Pelicans but is set to land softly after numerous reports surfaced of other NBA coaches interested in hiring Williams as a top assistant. The team who seems to be spear-heading the charge for Williams is the Oklahoma City Thunder and their newly hired head coach Billy Donovan.
Donovan recently made the jump from the NCAA to the NBA after 19 seasons coaching at the University of Florida. Donovan and OKC have been pursuing former NBA head coaches to sit as top assistants most likely due to Donovan’s lack of experience in the NBA. It was reported Donovan pursued former NBA head coach Mike Brown but Brown decided not to accept an interview.
Williams perfectly fits the role OKC and Donovan are looking to fill after finding success at the NBA level both as a player and coach. In 2013 Williams was selected as an assistant for the USA Basketball team under Mike Krzyzewski so Williams is clearly comfortable in an assistant role.
Williams’ replacement in New Orleans has been speculated but no clear front-runner has been established. The Pelican’s head coaching vacancy has drawn attention from some big name coaches currently working in the NBA, previous NBA head coaches, and college coaches looking to follow Donovan to the NBA.
The biggest name recently tied to New Orleans is the heralded Kentucky coach, John Calipari. A reporter for NOLA.com reported Calipari’s people have reached out to the Pelicans to gather information on the vacancy. Calipari recently received an extension pushing his contract in Kentucky to 2022 and has him making up to $8 million a year but Calipari’s previous failure as an NBA head coach could fuel him to reemerge in the league. Calipari immediately denied the reports after the article surfaced but some attribute this to big-time recruits currently visiting Kentucky and Calipari’s fear of losing recruits and not landing the job.
The team’s value is clear with budding superstars Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans, both former Calipari players, and Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. The team led by Williams made the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference but fell to the current favorites to win it all according to betting sites like Gambling.com, the Golden State Warriors. The Pelicans seem to have a bright future with Davis leading the charge and are an enticing job for most coaches of any level.