Monty Williams Isn’t Worried About Hurting His Players Feelings

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Monty Williams isn’t worried about hurting the feelings of a player.

He doesn’t want to a player’s buddy, pal or friend.

He has an old school mentality and his coaching philosophy that has been molded by working with or playing for ornery coaches like Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown, Nate McMillan and Pat Riley.

“I’m probably hard on everybody, except my wife,” Williams said to a chorus of giggles from the media gathered for his pre-game media scrum prior to a game against the Toronto Raptors.

“It’s just the nature of coaching. Great players want you to coach them. It just depends on who you are. Some people look at it as me being tough on them. Some people look at it as coaching. My job is to make guys better. I don’t get caught up in being, you know, somebody’s friend. I guess now it’s called a player’s coach and I’m probably the furthest thing from that. I just know I always have to make guys better so I’m always demanding the things that I think they need. The last thing I think guys want is somebody to tell them that everything is okay and I don’t want to do that as a coach.”

Tyreke Evans hasn’t taken warmly to this style of coaching so far and has butted heads with his head coach at times. He arrived with the New Orleans Pelicans after spending his first four NBA seasons playing for the Sacramento Kings and being allowed complete freedom on the court. Evans has had to adjust to a new role coming off of the bench and playing for a coaching that holds him accountable.

To say there have been growing pains is an understatement.

Evans was benched against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday evening for reasons that haven’t been fully explained to the public or media.

Shortly before Evans erupted for a game-high 23 points and 12 dimes off the bench, he was in a reserved mood sitting at his locker eating french fries.

When I approached him to talk he was apprehensive about talking with a member of the media and when the topic of Williams came up he wasn’t impressed with me.

“Umm… uhh… it’s just a good challenge” Evans mumbled while keeping his eyes down and refusing to make eye contact with me. “He will push and challenge you and you have to run with that.”

After answering two more questions, Evans was rescued by assistant coach Brian Gates who came into the locker room to get Evans for his pre-game workout.

Evans bolted out of the locker room and appeared happy to find solace from a reporter’s questions while working through his pre-game routine on the Air Canada Centre court.

While Evans was elusive while talking about Williams, other young teammates, like Jeff Withey and Austin Rivers, have had their share of growing pains in the NBA but were quick to praise Williams.

“I like it, personally,” Withey told me when asked about what it’s like playing for Williams. “I’ve always had coaches who have pushed me so I’m used to it. At Kansas, Bill Self pushed me and helped me get better. I’m happy that he’s always on my butt because it shows he cares. It’s hard at times, but in the big scheme of things, he’s just trying to get you better.”

Rivers struggled through a rough rookie season which saw a large contingent of the media and fans peg him as a bust. He averaged 6.2 points per game in 23.2 minutes while shooting 37.2% from the field.

This season, however, he has fought his way to playing time in a crowded backcourt and is averaging 6.1 in only 15.9 minutes per game.

“That’s who he is,” Rivers explained when asked if felt his coach was hard on him. “He’s a very competitive person and he demands a lot. Which is fine because that only means he wants the best out of all of us. Especially from us point guards. He’s really hard on me and Brian (Roberts) which is great because I know he just wants us to get better. I’m used to that anyway. Coach K wasn’t, umm, the easiest… I can’t really say too much, but he’s tough on us because he demands greatness. That’s why he is who he is and that’s why Monty is going to be who he is going to be.”

Williams may come across as mean or callous, but former players like Greivis Vasquez are quick to embrace his coaching style.

“It will be (a nice reunion for me) but Greivis (Vasquez) probably doesn’t want to see me,” Williams joked with the media. “I was really tough on him. He will probably start itching or sweating when he sees me because he will probably think I will yell at him or something.”

It’s because Vasquez was willing to work hard and take to constructive criticism that he had a career year for Williams and New Orleans last season.

Vasquez has shown flashes in Toronto, but in Sacramento he was a completely different player than the one who was third in the NBA in assists last season.

“He is a guy who came in and worked his tail off,” Williams boasted about Vasquez. “He had his best year with us and I feel fortunate to have been able to coach Greivis (Vasquez). He’s another guy I was really tough on. But I tell the guys we can be friends later or you can get better now, so which one do you want? We can be friends now and you’ll suffer. He was a guy who took hard coaching. He’s a great kid and I know the people up here feel the same way.”

Moments after Williams said those things, Vasquez crashing Williams’ pre-game media scrum and gave his former head coach a big embrace.

While Evans may be struggling to adjust to a coach like Williams, once he grasps that his coach is trying to help him through tough love, the growth will occur.

Players like Withey, Rivers and Vasquez have realized that Williams is only trying to challenge them to grow as players and it has helped them grow as NBA players.

Hopefully for Evans’ sake he’s able to buy in soon, too.

Just don’t expect Williams to become buddies with Evans like John Calipari did when Evans was a college freshman or be someone to give Williams a big hug like Vasquez did.

Monty Williams Talks About Being Tough On Greivis Vasquez

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“It will be (a nice reunion for me) but Greivis (Vasquez) probably doesn’t want to see me. I was really tough on him. He will probably start itching or sweating when he sees me because he will probably think I will yell at him or something. He was a bright spot for me last season. A big time flagship for our program. He is a guy who came in and worked his tail off. He had his best year with us and I feel fortunate to have been able to coach Greivis. He’s another guy I was really tough on. But I tell the guys we can be friends later or you can get better now, so which one do you want? We can be friends now and you’ll suffer. He was a guy who took hard coaching. He’s a great kid and I know the people up here feel the same way.”

Monty Williams on being tough on Greivis Vasquez last season

New Orleans Has A Bright Future

June 1, 2011 may have been one of the darkest days in the history of the New Orleans Hornets franchise.

The Hornets were already eliminated from the NBA Playoffs after a six-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.  The team was being run by the NBA and Commissioner David Stern because there was still a search going on to find out who the owner might be for the team going forward.  Most fans of the team was pretty sure that they witnessed their last game of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who had been the face of the franchise ever since he stepped into the league.

It was a scary time for Hornets fans.  Not only because of the potential of losing a superstar and beginning the rebuilding process, but due to the fact that there could potentially be no more team in New Orleans if the NBA couldn’t figure out the ownership situation.

Than everything changed once the NBA announced that ownership of the team would be taken over by Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints.  This insured that the team would be staying in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.

Now we arrive to June 1, 2012.  One year later and the Hornets not only have an ownership group but the also possess the rights to the first overall pick in this year’s draft after winning the NBA Draft Lottery.  This means the team has the right to draft the Naismith award winning center from the University of Kentucky,  Anthony Davis.  The Hornets also possess the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, which they acquired in the Paul trade.

Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams was not willing to admit that Davis would definitively be the team’s first selection come draft day on June 28, but he was willing to say how much Davis could possibly help if the team were to take him with the No. 1 overall pick.

“When we were playing against the Lakers in the playoffs, every time we drove to the basket all I saw was arms and legs,” Williams said.  “When you look around the league today, most of the dominant teams have length.”

Davis’ superior length is what helped him average 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks during his freshman season at Kentucky en route to a National Championship.

“Defensively, he’s above and beyond most college guys,” Williams said.  “Davis has the instincts to play defense at a high level right now.  He’s one of the few guys that has come into the league (and has been compared to) Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.”

While the possibility of adding Davis and another elite prospect with the No. 10 pick is quite exciting for the future of the Hornets, Williams also understands that the team has a long way to go and that other additions will be necessary in order to truly get the team where they want to be.

“We could probably use a couple more veteran guys that understand the day-in, day-out grind of dealing with me, dealing with the type of practices we have,” Williams said.  “It takes a certain kind of leadership to handle that.  Along with the talent, I think you need to add a few guys that understand what it takes to be a pro.”

One of the players that could fulfill that role for the Hornets—along with a few others—is restricted free agent Eric Gordon, who the Hornets acquired in the deal that sent Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.

While it has been reported that there has been mutual interest from both sides concerning Gordon’s potential return to the Hornets under a long-term contract, there is still quite a bit of uncertainty around the organization on whether or not it will actually happen.

Williams is unconcerned about all the talk.

“Either guys want to be here or they don’t,” Williams said.  “Having the top pick attracts guys, but at the same time, those guys are going to get offers from other teams.  But I think that pick, our new ownership and our city will attract guys.”

Also, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the lottery after the announcement was made that the Hornets won.  Some conspiracy theorists out there believe that Stern awarding the Hornets the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft was “payback” for the denial of the trade that would have sent Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the Los Angeles Clippers.  Also some believe that it may be possible that Stern could have thrown the top pick in the draft in to sweeten up the pot and maybe give Benson more motivation to purchase the Hornets.

Williams doesn’t pay much attention to those types of rumors.

“People come up with this (conspiracy) stuff every year.  Chicago had a low percentage when they got Derrick Rose.  When LeBron (James) went to Cleveland,” said Williams.  “People are going to write and say what they want to say.”

While it is nearly impossible to prove any type of conspiracy theory surrounding this year’s lottery to be true, there is no doubt that the results have completely turned the Hornets organization around and this team’s future is much brighter today than it was a year ago at this time.