Monty Williams' impact on the New Orleans Pelicans went beyond reaching the playoffs twice in five seasons. That has become obvious with Williams now grieving the untimely death of his wife.
While the Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder are scheduled to play basketball Thursday night, their thoughts will be with Williams a day after the tragic crash.
Williams went 173-221 in five seasons as coach of the Pelicans before he was dismissed after being swept by Golden State in the first round of the playoffs last season. He was subsequently hired to be coach Billy Donovan's top assistant with the Thunder.
Tragedy struck Williams on the eve of this matchup with New Orleans. His wife Ingrid, 44, was killed in a crash just outside of downtown Oklahoma City. Her SUV was hit by an oncoming car that crossed the center line, said police Capt. Paco Valderrama. That driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and an investigation is ongoing.
"The Thunder organization has heavy hearts tonight with the news of Ingrid's passing," the Thunder said in a statement. "Words cannot adequately describe how deep our sorrow is for the loss of Monty's wife. Our thoughts and prayers are with Monty and his family, and we will support him in every way possible.
"We know the entire community of Oklahoma City has them in their prayers."
The same could be said of the Pelicans, who expressed their condolences following Wednesday's 100-96 win over Utah.
"It's just really, really tough when you know a guy like Monty and what he's all about," coach Alvin Gentry said. "Then you realize that it's just a basketball game. That's all it is."
Pelicans star Anthony Davis became close with Williams and his family during his first three NBA seasons and commented on Twitter:
"Completely devastated. Ingrid Williams was like a 2nd mother to me when I got to NOLA. My thoughts & prayers are with Monty & the family."
With emotions almost certainly focused on Williams, the Thunder (39-14) will try to win for the 14th time in 16 games after Monday's 122-106 victory at Phoenix.
They're averaging 112.4 points over that stretch, with Kevin Durant contributing 30.5. The star forward is scoring 36.3 per game over the last three after scoring 32 on 11-of-21 shooting against the Suns.
Durant's 27.8 season average is third in the league. He's averaged 30.5 points in his last 11 home meetings with New Orleans (20-32), but a strained left hamstring forced him to miss a 110-103 win Nov. 18.
Russell Westbrook led the way with 43 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in that meeting. He's had some of the best games of his career recently against the Pelicans, scoring at least 40 in each of the past three meetings while averaging 45.3 on 56.0 percent shooting.
The Pelicans have followed a four-game slide with consecutive wins. Davis has totaled 46 points in those victories, hitting a running left-handed hook and a 3-pointer in the final minute to key Wednesday's win.
"I feel like as a leader of the team that's my responsibility," Davis said. "At some point in time, you've got to take over a game."
Jrue Holiday had 21 points and nine assists against the Jazz, two days after getting 27 and nine in a 116-102 win at Minnesota.
The veteran guard shared his thoughts on the Williams' tragedy.
"The players that were here with Monty and their family definitely felt it," said Holiday, who spent two seasons under Williams. "Obviously we're all blessed to play the game of basketball but family comes before that. And I know most of the guys were thinking about our families, thinking about his family."