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Monty Williams On Life and Living Through Tragedy

The former Trail Blazers assistant, who’s wife died in a car accident last February, opens up to Chris Ballard about life after her death.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Monty Williams captured the country’s heart last year with his moving eulogy to his late wife, Ingrid, who passed away in a horrific car accident that February in Oklahoma City, where Williams was coaching on the Thunder’s staff at the time. He selflessly reminded everyone that while he and his five children were mourning the loss of a wife and mother, the family of the woman who struck and killed Ingrid was also mourning.

However, it has certainly been a very difficult transition for him. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard profiled what life has been like for Williams and his children in the last year, in particular the grieving process:

He tries to put the grief in its place, as Pop always advises him to do. Compartmentalize. Still, he sometimes texts her, even though he knows she won’t respond. Other times, he looks up, thinking she’ll walk around a corner. “I can’t say that I feel her presence. I just see so much of her in the kids and so many things remind me of her,” Monty says. Sometimes he goes outside and talks to her. “And I don’t even know what that’s about. I just—I’m not grieving for her, you know. She’s in heaven, she’s with the Lord, she’s like, balling right now. You grieve because you don’t have what you had.”

Moving forward, for Monty, means returning to the bench. He thinks he’s ready, that it will center him. Indeed, he’ll start getting more calls. In March, after making it through the first anniversary of her death with the help of friends, he’ll turn down the top job at Illinois, wishing to focus on the NBA. People around the league will say it’s a matter of time—perhaps by the time you read this story—until he’s offered a head coaching job.”

Williams was an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers on Nate McMillan’s staff from 2005 to 2010, at which point he accepted the head coaching job with the then New Orleans Hornets, becoming—at the time—the youngest head coach in the NBA at 38 years old. He remained with New Orleans through the 2014-15 season, and served as an assistant with the Thunder last season until his wife’s death. He also served as an assistant coach for Team USA’s gold medal-winning team at the 2016 Olympics.

This season, Williams has been involved with the San Antonio Spurs as the Vice President of Basketball Operations, a position created by Spurs coach Greg Popovich, whom Williams has a special relationship with. Williams played under Pop for two seasons and later served as a coaching intern for him during the Spurs’ 2004-05 championship season, shortly after his playing days were over.

Williams and his children relocated to the San Antonio area after Ingrid’s death. It is also where her parents live, whom he remains very close to.

Ballard’s moving piece can be read in its entirety, here.