Firing Monty Williams Was the First Right Move in a Long Time for the Detroit Pistons

Firing Monty Williams Was the First Right Move in a Long Time for the Detroit Pistons article feature image

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) Pictured: Monty Williams.

To be fair, Monty Williams didn't even want the job in the first place.

The Pistons fired Williams as head coach Wednesday, leaving $63 million left to be paid on the deal he signed last summer.

Is it a good look to fire a well-respected coach a year into his multi-year record deal? No.

Is it unfortunate that the Pistons will continue paying him for several years? Yes.

Does it reflect the general lack of clear thinking by owner Tom Gores in his tenure to hire a coach who initially resisted taking the job and only took it when ownership upped the compensation to record levels? Obviously.

For more on the latest in the NBA, check out our post-Finals free agency intel.

But don't let the fact that hiring Williams last year was a mistake obscure the fact that the Pistons are finally getting their, ahem, exhaust in order.

By firing Williams, they're doing one of the hardest things for teams to do: cut their losses. It's a credit to Gores that he was willing to foot the bill for the remainder of Williams' contract, because in doing so, he's giving new head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon the ability to hire the coach he needs for his vision. Having a coach that a new front office did not hire never works well.

So, by firing Williams, Gores is giving Langdon and a new front office the ability to wipe away the stain of last year on one of the oldest franchises in the league. Williams struggled on all fronts last season, from player development — as he failed to play Jaden Ivey until late in the season — to winning games — as the Pistons suffered the longest losing streak in NBA history — to revamping the culture for a young team trying to find any sense of identity.

It's not really fair to judge Williams on the disaster, either. He made mistakes, but he did them in a job he initially declined with the worst roster in the league built by a front office that also was shown the door this summer. Williams certainly did not make lemonade out of lemons or chicken salad out of… well, you know, but he also wasn't the biggest dredge on the team's momentum. He wasn't the problem, or at least not the sole one, but he also definitely wasn't the solution.

Detroit's season win total took money each of the past two preseasons before opening night. Depending on where the Pistons go with their coaching decision and draft (after being shafted by the lottery in what was already a historically weak draft), they might be in a buy-low spot on their season win total. (Don't get carried away with any division nonsense or playoff odds, however.)

As for that replacement, the same candidates connected to the Lakers and Cavaliers jobs have been mentioned, including James Borrego and Kenny Atkinson. Borrego is the best X's and O's option, but he also struggled with a young team with poor veteran leadership in Charlotte. Detroit's in a better position to take a risk on a first-time coach since they will cost less against the continuing salary the Pistons owe Williams.

There's some runway for the Pistons. They're stocked with cap space and can look to make big changes by trading young players with upside. Cade Cunningham joined a list of just 13 players to average 22+ points and 7.5+assists per game before the age of 23, per Stathead. The next coach should be a better fit and have better luck.

They just won't have better paychecks.

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Nick Sterling
Jul 21, 2024 UTC