Phoenix Suns Announce Coaching Staff
The Phoenix Suns today announced Head Coach Monty Williams’ coaching staff, naming Willie Green, Darko Rajakovic, Mark Bryant, Randy Ayers, Larry Greer and Steve Blake as assistant coaches, and Riccardo Fois and Ben Strong as player development coaches. The announcement was made this morning by Williams on the Suns podcast, The Outlet, which can be viewed here.
“It’s a privilege for me to announce our coaching staff,” said Williams. “In assembling a staff, the goal was simple: identify high-character individuals with high-level experience who will work relentlessly to develop a culture of championship habits here in Phoenix. The members of this staff have combined to win multiple NBA titles, conference titles and NCAA titles, bring significant coaching and playing experience at the NBA level, and recognize the attention to details that create the foundation for successful teams. It’s a tremendous collection of bright basketball minds who are also outstanding people, and we are already hard at work.”
Green, 37,joins the Suns following three seasons as assistant coach/player development for the Golden State Warriors. In each of his first two seasons as a coach, he helped the Warriors win back-to-back NBA Championships in 2017 and 2018 before returning to the NBA Finals in 2019, and has received high praise from many in Golden State’s organization and beyond for his coaching knowledge and demeanor. Green served as the Warriors’ head coach for NBA Summer League in 2018, both in Las Vegas and at the inaugural California Classic in Sacramento where he led Golden State to the event’s only perfect 3-0 record.
A 12-year NBA veteran as a player, Green averaged 8.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 731 regular season games (297 starts) with Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, the LA Clippers and Orlando from 2003-2015. The 6-4 shooting guard played his first seven seasons in Philadelphia, including in 2007-08 when he averaged a career-high 12.4 points for the 76ers. He qualified for the playoffs seven times in his 12 seasons, averaging 5.2 points in 36 career playoff games (12 starts). In 2010-11, Green was a member of Williams’ first team as a head coach, averaging 8.7 points while appearing in 77 games to help New Orleans win 46 games and earn a playoff berth.
Prior to being selected with the 41st overall pick by Seattle in 2003, Green was a four-year standout at the University of Detroit Mercy. A native of Detroit, he won Horizon League Player of the Year as a senior in 2003 and helped the Titans to two NIT appearances in 2001 and 2002, including a trip to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in 2001. Green remains fourth in program history in career points scored.
Rajakovic, 40, comes to the Suns after seven seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder organization, spending the last five as an assistant coach. The Thunder averaged 49 wins in his five seasons as an assistant coach with four playoff appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2016 when he shared the bench with Williams and Bryant. Rajakovic served as the Thunder’s head coach at NBA Summer League in 2014 and 2015.
In 2012, the Serbian native initially joined the Thunder organization as head coach of their NBA G League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, becoming the first head coach born outside North America in NBA G League history. In two seasons as Tulsa’s head coach, Rajakovic recorded a 51-49 record and a trip to the G League semifinals in 2013. In 2014, while Rajakovic was serving as Tulsa’s head coach, Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks included him as one of his assistant coaches at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.
Prior to joining the Thunder organization, Rajakovic spent three years as head coach of Torrelodones in Spain. In his first season, he led Torrelodones to the championship of the Primera Division de Baloncesto in Madrid, earning promotion to Liga EBA, Spain’s fourth-tier professional league. Rajakovic began his coaching career at 16 years old with the youth teams of Borac Cacak in his hometown of Cacak, Serbia. After three years with Borac Cacak, he was named the head coach of the U20 and U18 teams of Red Star Belgrade and led Red Star to two Serbian championships in his eight years in Belgrade. Rajakovic received a basketball coaching degree from the Belgrade Basketball Academy in 2004 and a degree in sports management from Alfa BK University in Belgrade in 2006. During educational tours of college basketball programs in the U.S., Rajakovic spent time attending practices and meeting with Lute Olson at the University of Arizona in 2003 and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University in 2007.
Bryant,a former Suns player, returns to Phoenix after most recently spending 12 seasons as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His tenure with the Thunder featured a Western Conference Championship in 2012, plus three additional trips to the Western Conference Finals, including in 2016 when Williams was the team’s associate head coach. Bryant joined the Thunder franchise in 2007 before the team’s final season in Seattle then relocated to Oklahoma City and helped one of the league’s youngest rosters develop into a team that has averaged 52 wins and made the playoffs nine times over the last 10 seasons. Prior to joining the Thunder’s coaching staff, Bryant served as assistant coach/player development with the Orlando Magic from 2005-2007 and his first coaching job was as a member of the Dallas Mavericks’ player development staff in 2004-05.
Bryant, 54, played two seasons with the Suns from 1996-1998, posting career highs of 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 55.3% shooting in 1996-97. Overall, the 6-9 power forward averaged 6.0 points on 52.2% shooting and 4.1 rebounds in 111 games (40 starts) with Phoenix, in addition to 6.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in eight playoff games. Bryant played 15 total NBA seasons from 1988-2003 with Portland, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Denver and Boston, averaging 5.4 points on 50.0% shooting and 3.8 rebounds in 797 regular season games, and also appeared in 79 playoff games with trips to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 as a member of the Trail Blazers. Bryant and Williams were teammates together with the 76ers for part of the 2002-03 season.
Originally the 21st overall pick in the first round of the 1988 NBA Draft by Portland, Bryant played four seasons at Seton Hall University and left the program ranked fifth in school history in total points and total rebounds. He was a First Team All-Big East selection as a senior in 1987-88 when he averaged 20.5 points and 9.1 rebounds to lead the P.J. Carlesimo-coached Pirates to their first-ever NCAA tournament berth. Bryant is a native of Glen Ridge, New Jersey.
Ayers, 63, brings to the Suns 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 served as an assistant coach on Williams’ staff in New Orleans for all five seasons Williams was the team’s head coach from 2010-2015. Ayers has spent 17 total seasons on an NBA bench and was head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers for the majority of the 2003-04 season. He was a member of Larry Brown’s staff with the 76ers from 1997-2003, where he coached both Williams and Bryant, then was Green’s first NBA head coach with Philadelphia in 2003-04. Ayers also spent two seasons as an assistant coach with both the Orlando Magic (2005-2007) and Washington Wizards (2007-2009), and another season as an assistant coach with Philadelphia in 2009-10, before joining Williams’ staff in New Orleans. A member of the coaching staff on nine teams to qualify for the playoffs, Ayers was an assistant coach on Philadelphia’s Eastern Conference Championship team in 2001.
Prior to becoming a coach in the NBA, Ayers coached collegiately, including eight seasons as head coach at The Ohio State University from 1989-1997. Ayers’ best seasons came in 1990-91 and 1991-92 when he led the Buckeyes to consecutive No. 1 regional seeds in the NCAA tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 1991 and the Elite Eight in 1992. He was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in both seasons and was the consensus national coach of the year for 1990-91. He spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State before elevating to the program’s head coaching position. Ayers entered coaching as a graduate assistant for two seasons at his alma mater, Miami University in Ohio, then spent two seasons as an assistant coach at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point before joining Ohio State’s staff.
Before his coaching career, Ayers played at Miami and led the team to an upset of defending champion Marquette in the first round of the 1978 NCAA tournament. He was selected 53rd overall in the third round of the 1978 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, then played professionally for the Reno Bighorns of the Western Basketball Association before returning to Miami and entering the coaching ranks. Born and raised in Springfield, Ohio, Ayers is a member of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.
Greer joins the Suns following two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He served as an assistant coach for the Timberwolves in 2018-19 after working as the club’s advance scout in 2017-18. He also holds NBA experience as an advance scout with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2015-2017, Portland Trail Blazers from 2007-2011 and Houston Rockets from 2005-2007, in addition to a season as an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers in 2011-12. In 11 total NBA seasons, he has worked for seven teams that have qualified for the postseason. For part of his tenures with both the Thunder and Trail Blazers, Greer served as the advance scout for coaching staffs that included Williams.
Before returning to the NBA with Oklahoma City in 2015, Greer spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Arizona State University from 2012-2015. Greer helped the Sun Devils to consecutive 20-win seasons in his first two years in Tempe, including an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. In addition to his time at ASU, Greer’s coaching background includes serving as a college assistant coach at Wright State University (2003-2005), Boston University (1994-2003) and Brandeis University (1989-1992), in addition to working as recruiting coordinator at Boston College from 1992-1994. He helped Boston University to two NCAA tournament berths, including a school-record 25 wins in 1996-97, and helped Boston College reach the Elite Eight in 1994.
Before entering the coaching ranks, Greer played collegiately at Northeastern University and was the team’s captain during his senior season in 1988-89. The native of New York, New York received his bachelor’s degree from Northeastern. His brother, Andy, is also an experienced NBA assistant coach.
Blake, 39,comes to Phoenix after spending the last two seasons working for the Portland Trail Blazers. A 13-year NBA veteran as a player, 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. 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.
For his career, Blake averaged 6.5 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 38.3% from three-point range in 870 regular season games (347 starts) with Washington, Portland (three tenures), Milwaukee, Denver, the LA Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State and Detroit from 2003-2016. The 6-3 point guard was a member of nine teams to qualify for the playoffs, averaging 4.6 points and 2.5 assists in 53 career postseason games (13 starts).
Following a decorated collegiate career, Blake was the 38th overall pick in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft. Blake played four seasons at the University of Maryland and guided the Terrapins to their only NCAA Championship as a junior in 2002 after the school made its first Final Four during his sophomore season in 2001. He led the ACC in assists per game in each of his final three seasons, and led the NCAA in total assists in 2002. Blake played in all 138 games during his college career and remains Maryland’s all-time leader in games started (136) and assists (972) with 200 more assists than second place. Born in Hollywood, Florida, Blake completed his high school playing career at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.
Fois, 32, comes to the Suns after spending the past five seasons working for Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball program, elevating to the title of director of analytics. In his role at Gonzaga, Fois handled video breakdown and exchange, evaluated player analytics and assisted the coaching staff with day-to-day program operations. The Bulldogs advanced at least as far as the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in all five of Fois’ seasons, and he helped the program reach its first-ever Final Four in 2017, played in Arizona, when Gonzaga finished as national runner-up. Fois also assisted Gonzaga’s head coach Mark Few as the video coordinator for the 2015 USA Basketball Pan American Games Team coached by Few that won bronze in Toronto.
Fois was an assistant coach for Italy’s national team at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, serving on the staff of Ettore Messina, one of the best European basketball coaches of all time and currently an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. A native of Olbia, Italy, Fois played professionally in Serie B Basket, Italy’s third-tier professional league, from 2009-2012. He was a member of Italy’s U16 National Team at the 2003 FIBA Europe U16 Championship in Madrid, and was a teammate of NBA veterans Danilo Gallinari and Gigi Datome in Italy’s junior national team program.
Prior to his time at Gonzaga, Fois served as a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball program at Pepperdine University from 2012-2014. When he first moved to the United States, Fois played one season at Pepperdine in 2007-08 and was named to the WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
Strong, 32, joins the Suns after spending the 2018-19 season in player development for the Philadelphia 76ers where he worked alongside Williams to help the Sixers reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Following a lengthy playing career in the NBA G League and overseas, Strong entered the coaching ranks as assistant coach with the men’s basketball program at Huntingdon College for two seasons from 2016-2018.
A 6-11 forward/center as a player, Strong played five seasons in the G League from 2011-2016, averaging 7.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 183 career games with the Iowa Energy, Delaware 87ers, Austin Toros and Westchester Knicks. He averaged career highs of 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds with Westchester in 2014-15, then was a member of the New York Knicks’ team at NBA Summer League 2015. In addition to his time in the G League, Strong played professionally for Maccabi Haifa in the Israeli Premier League from 2008-2010, and also with clubs in the Netherlands, Uruguay and, most recently, New Zealand in 2016.
Before his professional career, he was the 2007 NABC Division III Co-Player of the Year at Guilford College. Strong was a two-time All-American, two-time Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Year and three-time all-conference selection at Guilford, leaving as the Quakers’ second all-time leading scorer. He led the ODAC by averaging 25.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as a senior and, as a junior, set the single-game NCAA Division III tournament record with 59 points in a triple-overtime victory. Born in Manassas, Virginia, Strong grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is of Native American descent as his father is a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.
The Suns have also added Ryan Frazier as head video coordinator.
Frazier, 26, comes to Phoenix after serving as a video/player development assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks this past season, helping the Bucks reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Frazier entered the coaching world as a graduate manager for the men’s basketball program at George Mason University in 2017-18. He played four seasons at Bucknell University from 2012-2016, helping lead the Bison to three postseason appearances including a 2013 NCAA tournament bid and two NIT berths. Frazier earned Patriot League All-Defensive Team honors as a senior in 2015-16, and also excelled in the classroom and community, twice earning the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award as well as the 2014-15 Patriot League Award for Outstanding Leadership and Character. The native of Silver Spring, Maryland worked as an equity capital markets analyst from 2016-2017 before his time at George Mason.