Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 42 of 47

BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM JUNE/JULY 2022 43 IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE E ven as on-court success and postseason awards p i l e u p fo r P h o e n i x S u n s head coach Monty Williams, don't expect any self-adula- tion — or even much recog- nition — from one of Notre Dame's former great players and a very proud university representative. Williams — a basketball All-American for Notre Dame in 1994, a 10-year NBA player, and now an 11-year NBA coach — was named as the 2022 NBA Coach of the Year. Big deal? Not to Williams. "Yeah, my name goes on the plaque, but my name represents a lot of names," Williams said of an honor many of his peers and players thought was overdue. "… The coaches in our league sacrifice so much to serve their teams, and there are so many outstanding coaches deserving of this honor." Williams became the runaway winner after leading the Suns to a franchise- record 64 wins during the regular sea- son, eight more victories than any other NBA team. It's another great coaching accom- plishment, indeed, but not enough to deter Williams from what most matters to him. "I've probably lost out on jobs be- cause people thought I was more in- terested in the relationship piece than the competition piece," Williams said. "I think they both go hand in hand. To be in a position where I can naturally grow with our guys from a relation- ship standpoint is huge and something I don't take for granted. "For me, it makes the winning and all of the experiences that much better." Phoenix won a franchise-record 18 consecutive games from Oct. 30 to Dec. 2, including all 16 of its games in November, which tied for the second- most wins in an undefeated month in NBA history. The Suns were routed 123-90 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinal May 15, marking the end of another magical go-around for Williams and his squad. Last season, Williams guided the franchise to its first NBA Finals appear- ance since 1993, but eventually lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. And while Williams stands strong and proud today as one of the most respected and popular figures in the league, he faced unthinkable tragedy in 2016 when his wife, Ingrid, was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City at age 44. Ingrid and Monty Williams met while they were students at Notre Dame in the early 1990s. They had five children together. An assistant with the Thunder at the time of the accident, Williams took a break from coaching before returning in 2018 as an assistant with the Phila- delphia 76ers. Williams parlayed that one-year stop in Philly into the Suns top job in 2019. This is the second head coaching stint for Williams. The 1994 first-round NBA Draft pick (24th overall) spent five years rebuilding the New Orleans Pelicans and made two playoff appearances be- fore surprisingly being fired in 2015 after losing in the first round of the playoffs. Rooted in faith, family and humility, Williams never be- came bitter and carried on in the only way he knows how, serving others. "I've often said about my life that God knocks the ball out of the park," Williams said, "and I just get to run the bases." BUCKS, CONNAUGHTON FAIL TO REPEAT One-year removed from becoming only the sixth for- mer Notre Dame player to ever win an NBA or ABA championship, former Irish shooting guard and valuable Milwaukee Bucks substitute Pat Connaughton's quest fell short to join Bill Laimbeer (Detroit Pistons, 1989 and 1990) and John Paxson (Chicago Bulls, 1991 and 1992) as the only former Irish hoopsters to win multiple NBA titles. Connaughton's Bucks were beaten 109-81 by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals May 15. In 12 postseason contests, he averaged 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds, and shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range. Connaughton, who played at Notre Dame from 2011-15, averaged career- high 9.9 points per game and shot a career-best 39.5 percent from 3-point range, while also contributing 4.3 re- bounds and 1.3 assists per contest dur- ing the regular season in a blossoming role coming off the Bucks bench. He has a $5.7 player option but could opt out and cash in on a two-year deal in the range of $8-10 million according to ESPN analyst Bobby Marks. ✦ Williams was tabbed as the 2022 NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Phoenix Suns to a franchise-record 64 wins during the regular season, eight more victories than any other NBA team. PHOTO COURTESY PHOENIX SUNS Monty Williams Finding Solace, Success As An NBA Head Coach

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - June-July 2022