Longtime NBA coach P.J. Carlesimo called it a “disgrace.”
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said it was “a shocker.”
The New Orleans Pelicans’ firing of coach Monty Williams on Tuesday came as a bit of a surprise to those around the league.
New Orleans parted ways with Williams after five seasons and two playoff trips — including this season.
“With all the injuries, how hard his team played was a strong endorsement,” Carlesimo, currently a TV analyst, said in an interview. “They beat Golden State, Phoenix and San Antonio to earn their No. 8 seed. … Monty deserved much better support.”
The Pelicans’ record improved in each of the past three seasons. They finished 45-37 in the regular season before getting swept by top seed Golden State in the playoffs.
Sekou Smith, who writes for NBA.com, wasn’t surprised by the move.
“More than a good or bad move, I feel like this was the one inevitable move that was bound to happen,” Smith said. “Monty Williams is a good coach and well respected in all of the right coaching circles. But like many before him and plenty more to come, his time was simply up with the Pelicans. You don’t stick around as a head coach in this league without consistent success, and by that I mean making a mark in the playoffs.”
Michael Wallace, an NBA columnist for ESPN, said the jury is still out.
“It’s a wait-and-see move,” he told The Advocate. “There are similarities with how things played out in OKC as well (with the Thunder firing Scott Brooks). What I’d really like to know is where (all-star forward Anthony Davis) stands. He’s the franchise player with a major decision looming. Monty was a coach that tried to connect on a very personal level with players. You truly wonder how AD feels about all this.”
Davis didn’t comment publicly or tweet about the coaching change Tuesday. Most of his teammates didn’t, either.
Quincy Poindexter was the only player who expressed any sentiments publicly about the move, using Twitter to announce his disbelief.
“Still in shock,” he tweeted. “Monty is a great coach! Couldn’t be a better person off the court as well. Tough to see him go. Learned so much from him. Really made me so much better on and off the court. I owe you Mont!”
While those around the league seemed surprised, some closer to home weren’t.
Godric Johnson of Baton Rouge has been a die-hard fan of the team since it moved to New Orleans in 2002. He watched the team go through another season when it was plagued by injuries to key players like Davis and guards Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday.
“Honestly, I’m not that surprised,” Johnson said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. I like Monty. He’s a good coach. You can’t really fault him for a lot of the stuff because of all the injuries. He hasn’t played with a full deck. It’s unfortunate. I saw it coming, but it’s kinda sad.”
Not everyone was sad, though. Helena Shear, a longtime season-ticket holder from New Orleans, said she welcomed the change.
“I was probably the most excited person around,” Shear said. “I’ve been saying for two seasons he has to go. I thought he sat down too much during the game. And I didn’t think he took any responsibility for any loss. That irked me. I didn’t think they would fire him, but I’m definitely happy.”
The search now begins for the sixth coach in franchise history.
Johnson is confident the Pelicans front office will make the right hire.
“I have the faith in (vice president) Mickey Loomis and (General Manager) Dell Demps to build a championship team like Loomis did with the Saints,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they will hire someone to keep Anthony Davis happy. We don’t want another Chris Paul situation, where our superstar leaves to play in another city. I’m leaving it up to them to find a coach to take us to the next level.”