Who needs a contract extension when you’ve gotten an attaboy from Mr. B?
In his season-ending meeting with the media Tuesday, Pelicans coach Monty Williams professed not to be concerned about his employment status, even though he will be entering the final year of his current deal.
He reportedly saved his job by the team making the playoffs by the barest of margins. The Pelicans were swept out of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and will certainly be dealing with decidedly elevated expectations for 2015-16.
What Williams didn’t mention was that earlier in the day he, General Manager Dell Demps and the other assistants plus the players had received a letter from Pelicans owner Tom Benson thanking them for a job well done while pledging to “bring everything to bear to win,” because “New Orleans deserves an NBA championship and we have the foundation, facilities and fans to make this a reality.”
It would seem that the decision has been made for Williams and Demps — who did not make himself available Tuesday, although presumably he also was at 5800 Airline Drive — to return.
And in return, they’ve been charged with the ultimate goal, if not for next season then in the near future — and with the resources to achieve it.
Those resources could include some high-level moves. Mickey Loomis, the team’s executive vice-president of basketball operations, is certain to be asked about it Wednesday when he puts on his executive vice-president/general manager of the Saints hat and talks about that team’s draft plans.
Maybe Loomis will get some relief from doing double duty all the time.
On Tuesday, Williams clearly was a man looking forward to the future as much as his owner while nautically tempering things with how saying the “C” word at this point is obviously premature.
“We’ve made a shift in the right direction,” he said. “But we’ve got to put some more sails up to get to where we want to be.
“The last thing I want us to do is get intoxicated over what we’ve done, because it’s nowhere near enough. You don’t talk about a championship until you can do it.”
Another thing: Williams clearly is a man confident of his abilities, maybe publicly so more than at any time during his five-year tenure with the team.
“I’ve never doubted my ability to coach and run a system that was taught to me, while adding my own nuances,” he said. “And I know that I work as I hard as I can at having our team prepared.
“The one thing I’ve learned about being a head coach is that you have to be a grinder; you don’t take days off. Another thing is that you’ve got to get better every year as a head coach. I believe I’ve done that.”
Naturally there’s still an element out there who will disagree. Williams, they hold, is an inadequate coach when it comes to his team having an offensive identity; a coach who lucked into Anthony Davis, although he does get credit for AD’s meteoric development as a pro.
Some of that element was loud enough that Williams did not want his family attending games this year because they’d have to hear him being booed — including his introduction before Game 3 of the Golden State series.
But Williams acknowledged it goes with the territory, pointing out that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is getting “crushed” by the rioting in her city, even though there’s no way it’s her fault.
“When I watch her going through that stuff, I know what happens in our area is not such a big deal,” he said. “And if people are talking about me, then they’re leaving our players alone, so I’ve done my job.
“But I don’t think it helps our program when other teams and players hear that, and they know me.”
Williams could have been referencing what could be efforts in the future to lure the caliber of free agents to go with Davis in fashioning a championship-level team.
Apparently recruiting can be as vital in the NBA as it is in college.
For now, though, Williams and Demps will be working together to evaluate which of the team’s free agents they want to retain — Monty’s apparently a big Omer Asik fan — which potential free agents can fill holes such as the help needed at small forward, and even looking at the draft. (The Pelicans have the No. 56 pick thanks to the Austin Rivers trade.)
They may not always agree on things, Williams acknowledged, but that can make for a healthy organization.
And maybe in the coming months, Williams can grab a little more family time.
With minimal Team USA duties this summer, he said he’s looking forward to spending more at home.
Monday night, he was able to take his family to Tower Pizza, where he talked about how many people were appreciative of what the Pelicans accomplished this season and were looking forward to the next one.
Maybe that doesn’t carry the clout of an endorsement from your team owner.
But considering the path Williams had to take over the past four years just to get to this point, it had to feel pretty good, too.