In a city that has known adversity both in the sports world, and in general, Tom Benson, Mickey Loomis, and Dell Demps have made it official. They want Monty Williams to lead the New Orleans Hornets out of their latest adversity and into a promising future.
Williams inked a contract extension, one reportedly for four years. For a team that lacked an owner and had nothing but questions about their roster just a year ago, the outlook is much different now.
It's rare that coaches get this sort of treatment a season after going 21-45, the third worst record in the league. However, Hornets management saw through the wins and losses to recognize a man they felt capable of leading a turn-around for a franchise that has not reached any further than the Western Conference semi-finals since arriving a decade ago. I, for one, agree whole-heartedly with their faith in Williams.
Having heard him speak, watched him coach, and seen what the Hornets had to go through in a rocky season that featured many injuries, Williams made sure that the team never lost their faith in him. The players fought even when they were over-matched almost every night. They hung in against some of the better teams in the league right until the end, when their lack of depth was exposed.
Now with a whole new line-up ready to be rolled out in a couple of months that features Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Austin Rivers (all younger than 25 years of age), the Hornets decided that the man who should lead them was already in place. Williams now has the freedom of time to work with other young players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Robin Lopez to foster the most out of their potential.
To keep continuity now was an important deal in the eyes of the decision makers for New Orleans.
Let's take a moment to recognize the guys calling the shots on this deal and to draw a simple parallel. Along with Demps, the new ownership knew very well about investing in a good coach and showing faith in him. As general manager and owner of the New Orleans Saints respectively, Loomis and Benson were looking for a strong, young voice. They picked a 42-year old Sean Payton to guide the Black and Gold in 2006 after a 3-13 year in the ashes of Hurricane Katrina.
Payton's results had not been the best as an assistant previously. He was promoted to offensive coordinator with the New York Giants, and reached a Super Bowl. Payton was stripped of those play-calling duties by Jim Fassel during that tenure from 2000-02. In his last stop before New Orelans, Payton did the best he could with aging veterans in Dallas from 2003-05 while under Bill Parcells. The results were missing the playoffs twice in those three years.
However, the front office saw the kind of personality Payton brings, and they bestowed their faith in him. Loomis and Benson along with Demps have made it clear with these actions that they see far beyond just the record when it comes to Monty.
As a player, Williams knew all too well about re-adjusting to different surroundings. His playing career spanned from 1994-2003 and included stints with five different teams (New York, San Antonio, Denver, Orlando, and Philadelphia). He understands both personalities and the many different ways to play in the NBA through experience.
Concerns? Doubts? Anybody think that Williams' style may not fit the re-done roster? Well, just think what would happen if this extension did not come through for him. The pressure on Williams would have been extreme, and maybe it would have lead to another coach coming in the door with an even shorter clock to win now. It's a very risky cycle when started and not an ideal way to spend the time you have with a roster that has such promise. What this extension does is cement the idea that improvement can be expected in greater respects beyond this year.
There is a window that extends beyond just this upcoming season. That window will be wide open in 2013 and 2014. More time is being given for this team to fully bloom and reach its maximum potential.
Nobody knows for sure how good Davis will be or whether Gordon can take the next step toward greatness, but all it takes is one player to change a small market's fortunes. Just ask San Antonio and Tim Duncan. The pieces fell in place behind Duncan, and the Spurs earned four titles from 1999-2007. Davis and Gordon could be the building blocks for something special.
Williams has always been humble as a man of great faith yet never afraid to take a playful jab at his own coaching style or take a hard stance when needed. Now faith has come his way from his employers. Whether Williams can answer the bell of the heightened expectations over the long term remains to be seen. But that's a question that can't be answered now.
This extension does answer one thing though. Williams in his two years at the helm has proven he at least deserves the chance to do much more.
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