Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams’ gesture after losing the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks provided quite the feel-good moment. Williams was shown congratulating the Bucks in their locker room in one of the most remarkable acts of sportsmanship in recent times.
The coach was also criticized for the move, however, with accusations coming his way claiming he wanted some of the spotlight on himself. Giannis Antetokounmpo has since revealed he was the one who brought the opposing coach into the victorious locker room, yet that hasn’t spared Williams some of the stick.
Speaking to The Athletic in an interview this week, the former San Antonio Spurs player revealed he had no idea he would be led into the locker room and wasn’t even sure where it was prior to heading in there.
“You know what man, I heard about what was made of it after the fact. And to be straight with you, it happened so quick. All I wanted to do was congratulate Giannis, because I came right out of a press conference and I shut the door and I went right into him,” he explained to the publication’s Sam Amick. “And he was sitting there with a cigar in his hands, soaking wet from — I guess — the champagne, and he had a bottle in his hand (laughs). So I’m thinking to myself, ‘How cool is this, man?’ (laughs).
“I come right out of my press conference, I’m emotional, and then I run right into him and I just wanted to be gracious and say ‘Congrats. You deserved it. You beat us.’ What I’ve learned over the course of my career is to try to handle defeat the right way, and maybe you get a chance, maybe you get a chance to handle the other side of it. I remember when we beat Denver (in the second round of the playoffs), (Nuggets president of basketball operations) Tim Connelly came straight down to our locker room. That had a huge impact on me when we beat Denver. When I was in San Antonio and we beat the Pistons in Game 7 (of the Finals) in ’05, Coach (Larry) Brown and (then-Pistons assistant coach) Dave Hanners came right over to our locker room. And so I’ve had these examples, and I was always taught that.
“My granddad — my mom’s dad — used to put a switch on my tail because I wasn’t a good loser. I’d always say something or do something that got me in trouble. I wasn’t trying to do anything (in the Bucks locker room), I was just trying to congratulate Giannis, and I thought maybe he’d take me to a side office where Bud (Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer) and (Bucks general manager) Jon (Horst) were and I was just going to congratulate them and maybe see a couple of their players. I had no idea that he was going to take me into the whole deal (laughs), but it was cool because I had so much respect for him.”
The Suns are among the favorites to head back to the NBA Finals and Fox Bet Arizona will be offering odds on the team’s prospects all of next season. They have kept the same core and coaching, bringing Chris Paul back on a four-year deal after he helped them get to within two games of a championship.
The likes of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will be much improved for the experience gained in reaching an NBA Final and Booker winning gold at the Olympics thereafter can only be helpful.
Asked for clarity on whether Giannis was the one who took him into the locker room, Williams admitted he wasn’t trying to exude sportsmanship or class and simply wanted to congratulate the Greek superstar for his accomplishment.
“Yeah, he was like ‘Come on, Coach,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ I didn’t know their locker room, and it was all done authentically. I wasn’t trying to be a great sportsman. I wasn’t trying to be classy, any of that. I was just doing what I was taught, you know? When you lose, you look the guy in the eye, you shake his hand — as hard as it is — and maybe someday you get a chance to be on the other side of that,” he continued.
“You know, we had just won three series and I got to feel what that was like. But in the most important series of my life, it didn’t work out. Well, I can’t act like an immature whatever you want to call me in that moment. So in that moment, I was just, like, trying to be gracious but also congratulate him because they beat us.”