CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- As a first-time assistant coach in the NBA, Brian Randle could be entering a situation with a motivated and confident professional mentor.
The former Illinois forward was hired by the Phoenix Suns Tuesday to join Monty Williams’ coaching staff for the following season after the 35-year-old spent just two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves doing behind-the-scenes administrative work for head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Duane Rankin, a Suns insider for The Arizona Republic for two years, believes Williams, 48, is in Phoenix in a long-term situation and therefore, gives the 35-year-old Randle the opportunity to learn from a veteran coach with over 15 years of coaching experience in the NBA including six as a head coach.
“When I look at this hire, I see a coach (in Monty Williams) comfortable enough to hire somebody who has never been an assistant,” Rankin said. “If that doesn’t speak to the comfort level that they have in not only (Williams) but the decisions he’ll be making moving forward, I don’t know what does.”
In the media release announcing his hire in Phoenix, Randle mentioned the opportunity to pair with Williams to begin his career as a professional coach. Before the NBA began the seeding games inside the Orlando bubble, which the Suns finished with a perfect 8-0 record and just missed the Western Conference’s final playoff berth by a half-game, the Suns organization dismissed two assistant coaches leaving a pair of vacancies.
“My family and I are incredibly excited to join the Phoenix Suns,” Randle said. “I couldn’t be more excited to work with and learn from Coach Monty Williams. The Suns have a strong young core with a great future ahead; I am grateful and humbled for this opportunity.”
Williams finished his first season in Phoenix, which hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2010, with the franchise’s most wins in five years. Williams spent five years as an assistant with the Portland Trailblazers from 2005-10 before getting his first chance as a head coach with the New Orleans Pelicans. In five years with New Orleans, Williams guided the team to the playoffs in his first and last season to finish his tenure with a 173-221 overall record.
After rotating through four coaches in the last six seasons, Rankin called the Suns current head coach as “the best thing they’ve done” and Williams was named the NBA Coach of the Bubble last month.
In Minnesota, Randle was a player development coach for the Timberwolves after being promoted last season from the team’s assistant video coordinator. Rankin speculated that if there is an NBA Summer League for the 2020-21 season, Randle could have some responsibility of Phoenix’s G-League team, the Northern Arizona Suns, before they move to Detroit.
“I spoke to some people (inside the NBA and the Suns organization) on Tuesday and from what I was told, the consensus is Brian is a very good coach and even a better person,” Rankin said. “I would think his overseas experience as a player helps because the NBA continues more and more to move toward that style of play.”
Randle was a two-time Israeli League champion (2010, 2017) and two-time Israeli Cup winner (2015, 2016) as a professional player overseas. He was named the Israeli League Best Defender in 2009, 2014 and 2015.
“I’ll be interested in how many hats they’ll ask Brian to wear because everywhere he’s been he’s been known for defense and then spending two seasons with Thibs means he’s likely been guided on that end of the floor,” Rankin said. “However, how much will Monty and the organization ask of him? Will he invested in developing the young talent? Will he be involved in game-to-game plans? I’ll be interested to see what his role will be.”