1:00pm: The Pelicans were expected to pick up their team option for 2016/17 on Williams when they met with him this morning, sources told Wojnarowski for an updated version of his full story. Of course, that’s not how it turned out.
12:33pm: Benson told those close to him of his affection for Williams during the playoffs, TNT’s David Aldridge tweets, calling Thibodeau a “clear and obvious candidate” for the freshly opened Pelicans job in a second tweet. The future of Benson’s control of the Pelicans is in some doubt as his family puts up a legal fight for the team.
12:26pm: Demps pushed out Williams, Wojnarowski writes in a full story. The GM has been angling for more control and Williams’ coaching staff sensed decreasing support from management, feeling as though there were “unnecessary obstacles” in their way, league sources told Wojnarowski.
11:56am: The Pelicans have parted ways with coach Monty Williams, the team announced via press release. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported minutes earlier that the team had fired him (Twitter link). Williams was under contract through next season. The futures of Williams and GM Dell Demps have been shrouded in uncertainty of late, though Wojnarowski seems to imply that Demps is safe, saying that the GM “has his way now” (Twitter link).
“Making a decision like this is never easy and is never done hastily, especially when you are dealing with a person of Monty Williams’ character. We thanked Monty for the tremendous work and commitment he made to our organization and the development of our young players, specifically Anthony Davis,” executive vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis said in the team’s statement. “While we continue to work towards improving our roster, we decided that now was the time to make this decision. We wish nothing but the best for Monty in the future.”
Demps and owner Tom Benson were also quoted in the statement. Benson sent Williams, Demps and their staffs a letter of congratulations following the end of the team’s season, one in which the franchise made the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The timing of the firing is curious, coming more than two weeks after the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The sense around the NBA was that the playoff berth, clinched on the final night of the regular season, had saved Williams’ job, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (Twitter link). John Reid of The Times-Picayune reported that the team planned evaluations of Demps and Williams at season’s end. Demps refuted another report that the organization had given him and Williams playoffs-or-else mandates before the season.
The job would appear to be attractive to potential replacements based on the presence of Davis alone. The Pelicans hold Tom Thibodeau in high regard, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wrote earlier today, and the team has pursued Thibodeau in the past, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com, who also notes the close relationship between Davis and Thibodeau from their time working with Team USA. Of course, there’s the matter of Thibodeau’s contract with the Bulls, which runs for two more seasons. Turmoil has marked the coach’s relationship with the front office, but Chicago may prefer to seek compensation from another team for the right to hire him rather than simply letting him go after the season, as Kyler wrote.
New Orleans hired Williams before the 2010/11 season, the last one before the team traded Chris Paul to the Clippers. The then-Hornets made the playoffs in Williams’ first season but bottomed out the next year. New Orleans won the draft lottery in 2012, enabling the franchise to take Davis with the No. 1 overall pick, but even this year, the team has yet to finish outside of last place in the competitive Southwest Division since trading Paul. Williams went 173-221 with the Pelicans in his only NBA head coaching gig to date, compiling a playoff record of 2-8.