Monty Williams got his first taste of Doc Rivers’ brand of honesty when they were teammates with the Knicks 16 years ago. Rivers was a 11-year veteran. Williams was a rookie, who like to turn pregame warm-ups into dunk contests.
Teammates would hype him up.
“Mont, do this dunk!”
He’d windmill it.
“Mont do this dunk.”
He’d cradle it.
Doc Rivers couldn’t stand it -- “You never going to get that in a game,” he said – so he went over to Williams and told him.
“He pulled me to the side and just ripped me,” Williams said. “He pulled me to the side and was like, ‘Stop dunking the bleeping ball. Work on your game. You’re going to be out of this league in two or three years if you don’t work on your game.’”
Then, Rivers just walked away.
“I was mad and embarrassed, but I understood he was just trying to look out for my career,” Williams said.
Williams’ pride was less of a concern to Rivers than his career.
“If telling someone the truth ruins your relationship, then I’ve always believed that there never was a relationship,” Rivers said. “
“It’s not the guys telling the truth, it’s the guy accepting it that’s the issue,” Williams said. “It was on me to accept it.”
They’re now close friends and, having spent time as an assistant for Rivers in Orlando, Williams considers Rivers a mentor. With Williams in town as head coach of the New Orleans Hornets, the two \went out to dinner last night. That story came up in the conversation.
“It’s funny he was just telling me last night that he just told a player that,” Rivers said. “So it’s funny how it all comes around.”
Williams landed the job with the Hornets this summer, and Rivers’ honesty is a quality Williams now carries with him as a head coach.
“He’s been willing to risk our relationship to tell me the truth, and I find myself doing that with our guys,” Williams said. “I’m starting to understand how much I care about them, because I will tell them the truth and I get a lot of that from Doc. So to say he’s just been a big brother would be understating it. He’s been more than that. I played with him, I played for him and he and I talk on the phone frequently.”