Monty Williams' Connections with Suns Assistant Coaches
The Phoenix Suns announced Head Coach Monty Williams’ coaching staff, naming Willie Green, Darko Rajakovic, Mark Bryant, Randy Ayers, Larry Greer and Steve Blake as assistant coaches. All six assistants come with years of NBA experience and connections throughout the league, specifically with Williams.
PAST EXPERIENCE: Willie Green played 12 years in the NBA on the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic. After retiring, Green joined the Golden State Warriors as assistant coach / player development as he helped the Warriors win back-to-back NBA Championships in 2017 and 2018.
MONTY CONNECTION: In 2003, Williams and Green played together in Philadelphia during Williams' final season and Green’s rookie year. In 2010, Williams was Green’s head coach in New Orleans.
WILLIAMS ON GREEN: “He’s one of the younger guys in the NBA that I look up to. He’s just a good man and an unbelievable coach. I coached him in New Orleans. I’d be here all day talking about Willie. I think Willie is going to have an impact on Devin that is going to take our program to a level that is going to be really good. Willie has had an impact on me… I’ve known [his family] for the past 10 years as a coach. Willie was a rookie when he was in Philly. I was his vet and he had to put up with me. I coached him as a head coach and he had to put up with me even more. Now, he’s got to do it again.”
PAST EXPERIENCE: Darko Rajakovic began coaching overseas in 1996 before eventually transitioning to the NBA in 2012. He became the first head coach born outside of North America in NBA G League history in the Thunder organization. In 2014, he transitioned to the Thunder’s NBA coaching staff for the past five seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2016.
MONTY CONNECTION: Williams and Rajakovic worked during the 2015-16 season in Oklahoma City as Williams was the associate head coach and Rajakovic was an assistant.
WILLIAMS ON RAJAKOVIC: “He will help me a ton on offense. I think he would want everyone to know he’s more than an offensive coach. He has a European flavor that I value a ton. I watch a lot of European basketball and we tend to run the same kind of offenses. They get to run more offenses for time than we do, but Darko brings a European flavor that you’re starting to see more in the NBA. He really helps me with wrinkles, ATOs, end-of-game plays. He and I began a relationship in OKC. He’s a really good coach. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I feel like he’s going to have some opportunities to be a head coach at some level in years to come.”
PAST EXPERIENCE: Mark Bryant played 15 years in the NBA on the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics. He appeared in 79 playoff games as well as trips to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 as a member of the Blazers. Following his career, his first coaching job was as a member of the Mavericks’ player development staff in 2004-05 followed serving as assistant coach / player development with the Orlando Magic from 2005-2007. Bryant has spent the past 12 seasons as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder which featured a Western Conference Championship ion 2012, plus three additional trips to the Western Conference Finals.
MONTY CONNECTION: Williams and Bryant played together in Philadelphia during the 2002 season. The two reunited in Oklahoma City when Williams was named associate head coach.
WILLIAMS ON BRYANT: “He’s known as a big man savant, but what we wanted to do here was give guys like Mark a chance to show the NBA world and the world in general that he is more than just a big man coach. Mark’s going to be on the bench full time. He’s done wonders with a number of players, not just bigs. But he’s going to have a hand in Deandre’s growth as a man and as a player. He’s going to make me better. Mark is not afraid to tell me the truth and he’s bigger than me, so he’s already got me in a corner. I really feel like Mark is going to be a bit of a cornerstone for us going forward, just who he is as a coach and as a man… We played together in Philly. You know the guys who like to be in the gym. Practice would be over and Mark and I would be, after practice, playing one-on-one. This was after two-and-a-half, three-hour practices. NBA doesn’t do that anymore, but back in the day we actually practiced. Mark and I and a couple of other guys, we stayed after and just played one-on-one, talked trash, player H-O-R-S-E. Then when we got to OKC and coached together, we did the same thing. We would player H-O-R-S-E and workout and go outside and work out, talk basketball and talk family. He’s a guy that I admire, but he’s also a man that is a really good coach. I think you’re going to see that here.”
PAST EXPERIENCE: Randy Ayers brings over 35 years of coaching experience, including as an NBA and college head coach, and has most recently spent the past three seasons as a pro scout with the Brooklyn Nets. He has spent 17 total seasons on an NBA bench and was an assistant coach on the Philadephia 76ers’ Eastern Conference Championship team in 2001 before becoming their head coach for the majority of the 2003-04 season.
MONTY CONNECTION: Ayers coached both Williams and Bryant during their time with the 76ers and was Green’s first NBA head coach with the 76ers in 2003-04. He then joined Williams’ staff in New Orleans in 2010 as an assistant.
WILLIAMS ON AYERS: “Randy is like my go-to. He worked with me in New Orleans. I played for him in Philadelphia with Mark. When we hired Randy in New Orleans, I knew that I needed someone who had kind of been-there-done-that. I just felt like he was someone who was going to kind of corral our staff, but also be a man that our players can look at and go to for wisdom that I don’t have because he is a bit older. He won’t like me saying that, but he is a bit older and bit wiser than I am.”
PAST EXPERIENCE: In 11 total NBA seasons, Larry Greer has worked for seven teams that have qualified for the post season. He time in the NBA has included experience as an advance scout for the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder before serving as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.
MONTY CONNECTION: For part of Greer’s tenures with both the Thunder and the Blazer, he served as the advance scout for coaching staffs that included Williams.
WILLIAMS ON GREER: “LG is just a grinder. I met him in Portland. He was a Portland scout and when I played I never paid much attention to scouts. You just play. Then, when I got into coaching I realized those guys are nuts. They travel all over the country. They watch more games than anyone, just so they can find one more play that will help us scout better and plan better. I saw his love for the game, but I also saw his love for his family. Larry has been here in Arizona. He coached at Arizona State. He’s got scouting. He’s got college experience. He’s been in the NBA for a long, long time. He’s a basketball man and when you hear people say that about coaches, it says a lot. Larry is every bit of that.”
PAST EXPERIENCE: A 13-year NBA veteran as a player, Steve Blake last played in 2016 and entered the coaching ranks with Portland, first as a coaching intern in 2017-18. Then as an on-court assistant in 2018-19 where he helped the team advance to the Western Conference Finals.
MONTY CONNECTION: Blake’s most successful seasons as a player came with Portland in 2005-06 and from 2007-2010 when Williams served as an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers. As Portland’s starting point guard, Blake averaged a career-high 11.0 points in 2008-09 and a career-high 5.1 assists in 2007-08, helping the Trail Blazers improve from 32 wins before he returned in 2007 to 41 wins in 2007-08 then 54 wins and a playoff berth in 2008-09. In addition to playing under Williams as an assistant coach with Portland for the 2007-08 season, Blake was a teammate of Suns General Manager James Jones.
WILLIAMS ON BLAKE: “Steve’s a guy that I coached in Portland. He knows the league. He wanted to get into coaching. He was in player development in Portland… I felt like Steve, not only has he been a good player in the league for a long time, he was going to be huge for us as far as player development was concerned. He was a guy that I spent a lot of hours in the gym working on his game. He used to kick my butt in one-on-one full court on many occasions. I think he’s going to be a huge asset for us as we move our player development to another level.”
The Outlet: Monty Williams