Pistons fire coach Monty Williams one season into record-setting $78.5 million contract

The Detroit Pistons fired coach Monty Williams, the team announced Wednesday. The decision to part ways with Williams now reportedly came at the ownership level. Williams, who was hired last offseason on a then-unprecedented six-year, $78.5 million contract, lasted just one year in his new role with the Pistons. He went 14-68 in a disastrous season that included a 28-game losing streak.

“Decisions like these are difficult to make, and I want to thank Monty for his hard work and dedication,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a team statement. “Coaching has many dynamic challenges that emerge during a season and Monty always handled those with grace. However, after reviewing our performance carefully and assessing our current position as an organization, we will chart a new course moving forward.”

The Pistons already made a change atop their basketball operations department when they brought in Trajan Langdon from the New Orleans Pelicans as their new president. Previous general manager Troy Weaver left the team soon after, and with Langdon in place, it seems as though the Pistons have decided to fully clean house and start over without the former NBA finalist Williams.

The contract that Williams signed last offseason reset the market for the NBA’s other top coaches. Soon after the Williams contract, Erik Spoelstra earned a new eight-year, $120 million deal with the Miami Heat and that is the new standard. Ty Lue, Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr have all signed hefty new extensions in the past year at higher annual salaries than what the Pistons gave Williams.

Detroit needed to pay Williams so much because, after a successful tenure with the Phoenix Suns, he was in demand. The Pistons, coming off of a 17-win season at the time, did not have a very desirable job to offer, and reports indicated that the front office was split between multiple candidates. Williams, by far the most accomplished coach that Detroit spoke to, emerged as a reasonable compromise, and owner Tom Gores opened his checkbook to bring him aboard.

But his lone season with the Pistons didn’t go at all as planned. Detroit won fewer games last season than they did before Williams’ arrival despite the return of former No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham from an injury that mostly kept him out of the 2022-23 season. Key young players like Jaden Ivey struggled to find their footing in a system while older, less important players like Killian Hayes played far more than the numbers suggested that they should. Detroit’s limited spacing made it hard for their young ball-handlers to develop, and Williams didn’t help matters with an offensive scheme that emphasized mid-range looks.

That system was viable in Phoenix with Chris Paul and Devin Booker. It didn’t work with a younger roster in Detroit. The Pistons need to turn years of high draft picks into a viable, balanced team. They will now be turning to a new coach to help them do that.

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