Williams Goes Beyond the Clipboard in Teaching Lessons in Suns Locker Room

Monty Williams Ricky Rubio
by Cody Cunningham

Hammers, buckets and earplugs. Suns Head Coach Monty Williams is bringing his metaphors to life in the Suns locker room and the players are listening and buying into his methods.

From his “Whole Team Up” approach to his “0.5” system, Williams has had the team reiterating his philosophies since training camp, but has now taken it a step further. Objects such as hammers, buckets and earplugs may normally suggest some sort of construction job, but the team is going to leave the renovations of Talking Stick Resort Arena to the professionals.

Instead, Williams has presented his team physical items to further his teachings and help his players remember his lessons going further. The Suns locker room is currently lined with large white buckets at the top of the lockers as a reminder to each player every day.

“We had the buckets made and we put 'Everything counts' on it,” Williams said. “It's just a metaphor, a symbol that the bucket is your career. Everything you do counts. Whether it's getting one more hour of sleep, getting a massage, getting your work in, video work, everything is important. Film study, talking to your teammates, communicating on defense. It all goes into that symbolic bucket.”

Following practice last week, one by one the players exited the locker room with hammers and earplugs to take home. The Suns are off to their hottest start since 2009 at 6-3 and are making national headlines, but Williams wants the team to stay focus and tune-out any outside noise.

“The earplugs were so guys would be selective on what they listened to,” Williams said. “You start hearing all [the talk], people sending me articles, delete, sending the articles, delete, send, delete. You see the stuff on TV and naturally you want to listen to that stuff. For us to really focus on the process, I just thought of a goofy idea to go out and buy earplugs and the hammer.”

Williams got the idea for the hammers from his time in San Antonio working with Head Coach Gregg Popovich in order to push the concept of continuing to pound the rock.

“The hammer was, we got to keep working,” Williams said. “If you've been in San Antonio, you have a familiarity with the Jacob Riis poem with the stone cutter. In San Antonio, we just talk about pounding the rock and that's basically what we do there. I wanted to bring some of that stuff here. The hammer was symbolic of the work that you've got to put in everyday and the earplugs were to just tune out all the nonsense because it doesn't mean anything.”

Williams admits that the idea behind gifting his players a hammer and earplugs may come off as goofy or corny, but that the information that is processed matters above all else.

“Coaches, we try to do anything to help our players remember or encourage a certain behavior or a certain atmosphere,” Williams said. “It's just an effort to try to keep this thing from being so monotonous and boring. I just care about our guys and we just try to do things to help them see that.”

Tyler Johnson has experienced similar types of methods in his time with the Miami Heat where Head Coach Eric Spoelstra would hand out wristbands with words and affirmations on them. While Williams may think his own methods have a sense of corniness to them, Johnson and the rest of the locker room are listening, learning and are bought in.

“The thing is, people associate corny with negative,” Johnson said. “Corny is not necessarily a negative thing. Coach is basically giving us his philosophies. He doesn't really say a whole lot. When we come into timeouts and when we come in here in the locker room, he's not really wanting to overtalk. The things that he does say, you listen. The things that he does give you, you pay attention to because you know it's not like he's just hammering you with information. He wants you to be able to be free and just remember the little things.”

The Suns aren’t even a month into the season, less than two months since training camp, but Johnson has already noticed the impact the Williams has made on the Suns culture.

“It's huge,” Johnson said. “I've seen it a lot. You can just tell that guys are more invested. He does a great job of getting his message across the right way. You also have a lot more guys that are a little bit older and understand how important that culture is. You can have a coach who does all these things, but if you don't have a players coming together and setting the standard for each other and holding each other accountable, it doesn't really matter. We are just reflections of what Monty is trying to do.”

Williams has matched Paul Wespthal, Alvin Gentry and Terry Porter for the best nine-game start to a coaching tenure in Suns franchise history at 6-3. The Suns will look to improve their record to 7-3 as they tip-off against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona or come down to the arena and watch it live. Get your tickets HERE.

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