New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams is the ideal man to be charged with mentoring rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. Williams mixes hard work and a passion for the game with a vibrant youthfulness that is sure to benefit a young roster such as New Orleans'.
At 41 years old, Williams is the NBA's youngest head coach. The Hornets are the second-youngest team in the league. The lack of a huge generation gap between Williams and his players makes it easier for him to relate to his guys. It also allows the coach and his players to grow together.
As we saw a year ago in Utah with Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, sometimes older coaches are out of touch with how to handle today's NBA players. Williams seems to have good command of his team, but he will benefit Davis and Rivers in their own separate ways.
Williams is a defensive-minded coach and his dedication to stopping opposing offenses will come in handy when coaching an elite defensive talent like Davis. Prior to being drafted by the Hornets in June, Davis mentioned making an immediate impact defensively as one of his chief priorities as a rookie.
"I need to make an impact defensively to help the team win," Davis told Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears. "I don't want to be offensive-minded. I'm not thinking about scoring."
Williams and Davis exchanged texts after the Hornets won the lottery and that helped them develop a connection with each other. Williams also scored some brownie points by sticking up for Davis when the coach came out against the league's concussion policy after Davis took a blow to the head from Rivers a few weeks ago.
The comments may have made Williams' pockets $25,000 lighter, but it was a public sign of a coach standing by his players.
As for Rivers, his relationship with Williams dates back to long before the former Duke guard ever put on a Hornets uniform. During an NBA career that spanned nine years and five different teams, Williams once shared a locker room with Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics and Austin's father. The two have been friends since 1994 and Williams has known Austin since he was a child.
That connection helped make Rivers the No. 10 overall pick and gives him a familiar face to help adjust to life in the pros. Williams had nothing but great things to say about him leading up to the Draft.
"He's always been driven. He's always been in the atmosphere of being an NBA player's son," Williams told NOLA.com's John Reid back in June. "None of this stuff bothers him. His No. 1 attribute is that he's not afraid. He can knock down shots and is going to get better defensively. But he's a great kid, and comes from a great family."
Rivers has had his struggles shooting the ball in the pros so far, but it will benefit him in the long run that he'll be taking lessons from a guy who practically helped raise him as a kid. You don't find that kind of a bond between a rookie and his new head coach that often.
As of Nov. 28, the Hornets are 4-9 heading into a clash with the Jazz. They are very much a work in progress. However, despite "not thinking about scoring," Davis was one of the team's better offensive weapons before he went down with an ankle injury. He was averaging 16 points and 8.3 rebounds while still maintaining his defensive prowess with 2.2 blocks per game.
Rivers still has a ways to go, averaging 7.4 points per game despite playing nearly 29 minutes a night filling in for the injured Eric Gordon. Still, if anyone can get Rivers back on track, it would be the guy who has known him for decades.
It might not show in the standings, but Williams is becoming one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks. His age, hard work and experience from his playing days help him relate to and mentor a roster of players that are only a few years his junior.
Williams is the ideal coach for this team because he and his team are on a similar level in terms of growth. The time and experience that will lead to Williams' development as a coach will only benefit this promising Hornets squad, especially its two youngest members.