The Phoenix Suns have reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993, and they’ve done so in large part through the leadership of Monty Williams, who put his faith in Christ at the forefront during during the post game interview after their series clinching win.
“How have you found the sweet spot, of being all of the things a man wants to be – a mentor, a leader, and a task master when you have to be. How has that balance been achieved?” host Scott Van Pelt asked.
Monty Williams faith and more on today’s 4 & 3 Podcast. Listen and don’t forget to subscribe:
“The essence of my coaching is to serve,” Williams began. “As a believer in Christ, that’s what I’m here for. And I tell them all the time, if I get on you, I’m not calling you out I’m calling you up. You have potential, and I have to work my tail off to help you reach that potential.”
Williams went on to say that the approach is working. “Guys have embraced that,” he said. “They understand, if I’m direct or black and white with them it’s not to make them feel bad. I want them to get paid, I want them to win, I want their families to enjoy it. It’s served us well.”
Faith in the face of grief
Williams made headlines in 2016, sadly, when his wife of 20 plus years, Ingrid Williams, was killed in an automobile accident. The 44 year-old was hit head on by a car that had swerved over the center divider. Ingrid had a strong faith, and shared five children with Monty.
His eulogy was a powerful display of faith in the face of grief and loss, as he calmly shared the hope they both have in Christ and urged people to focus on “what’s important” in life: the Gospel.
He also urged people to pray for the family of those in the other car, and said he held “no ill will” towards them. Williams also said we can’t serve Christ if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness.
He said these words despite knowing the driver of the other vehicle was under the influence of meth at the time. Three of his young children were also in the car but survived.
You can watch the entire eulogy here:
Faithwire’s parent company CBN summarized the eulogy at the time.
“Psalm 73:1 says God is good. 1 John 4:16 says, God is love. During times like these it’s easy to forget that…because what we’ve gone through is pretty tough, and it’s hard, and we want an answer. But we don’t always get that answer when we want it. And we can’t lose sight of the fact that God loves us.”
It didn’t take long for Monty Williams’ touching eulogy for Ingrid-his wife of twenty years to go viral. But it wasn’t because of his status as an NBA player or coach-it was for the message of forgiveness he offered the woman who killed her in a car accident and her family.
“Everybody is praying for me and my family, which is right. But let us not forget that there were two people in this situation. And that family needs prayer as well. And we have no ill will towards that family,” said Monty.
It was February 9, 2016. Monty was told that a driver under the influence of Meth crossed lanes and hit Ingrid’s car with three of their children inside. The kids suffered minor injuries, but Ingrid was in the hospital fighting for her life.
“Once I got the news to the time that I heard that it wasn’t going well, to my few – last few seconds with her it was all slow and…the thing that I remember clearly is everything was really simple. Not much mattered. It was just me and the Lord. And wasn’t a wrestling match or anything of that stuff that you hear about, it was just a pleading for God to intervene,” said Monty.
Despite all of their efforts, Ingrid passed away the following evening.
You know, I was in this part of my life that had change in a split second and it brought me right to the kind of anger that was indescribable. And I was upset about what happened, I was upset about my children – children having to live their life without their mom, me going forward with(out) Ingrid, and the whys, you know?” said Monty.
Monty and Ingrid were college sweethearts at the University of Notre Dame. He learned about having faith in Jesus Christ from her.
“She was the most consistent example of graciousness that I had met. And I had – I didn’t even know what grace meant when I was 17,18 years old, I just knew that the things that I read about in the Bible I was seeing it in her.”
Through Ingrid’s example and prayers, Monty accepted Jesus Christ in his heart. As Monty entered the NBA, the two married and started a family. For the next twenty years as a player and coach, Monty leaned on God, and Ingrid, as they followed God’s direction for their lives.
Shawn: Again, you’re spending all these years in a league that’s changing. It’s a roller coaster ride. You don’t know what turn, dips, or tunnels are coming. How has your faith helped you stay resilient through all of that?
Yeah, I think Colossians 3:23 has always been a verse for me. And Matthew 6:33. And doing my work as unto the Lord and seeking God first, I think, those have been a lighthouse for me with the ups and downs of the NBA,” said Monty.
But when Ingrid was killed, Monty didn’t know how to move forward. He found his first steps toward healing during a meeting with a pastor.
“It was the Lord because Brett Meador, who was a father and pastor from Oregon, he was talking about forgiveness and somehow, someway the Lord impressed it on my heart to make sure that my kids understood that,” said Monty.
“It was the Lord because Brett Meador, who was a father and pastor from Oregon, he was talking about forgiveness and somehow, someway the Lord impressed it on my heart to make sure that my kids understood that.”
A message that, through Ingrid’s eulogy, Monty wanted others to understand as well. “In my house we have a sign that says, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness,” said Monty.
Shawn: How essential was forgiveness in helping you to heal?
“Forgiveness took the focus off of the accident and it really brought me before the Lord because I was really disappointed in how it all went down. I wasn’t disappointed in any one, I was really disappointed in the Lord because I know how awesome God is and I know that it could have gone the other way, and I just couldn’t understand that and I still don’t. I don’t question God, I don’t question his love for me. I don’t like what happened – I don’t like this part of the plan. And I know that God’s going to do more with what happened with us, than he could do in another situation, with or without me. And I want to be a part of it,” said Monty.
Today Monty is married to Lisa and currently serves as Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Spurs organization. As he continues pressing forward, he’s using every opportunity to lead people to Jesus Christ.
Shawn: What message did the Lord give you to give?
“I think quitting is okay, just don’t stay there. You know? It’d be east for me to sit here and say that I’ve been strong through this whole deal, but that’s just not the case, man. I’ve had days where I just gave up and the Lord picked me up. I want that to be the message out of all this is how God brings you through all of this stuff. And I’d love to, you know, just have one more second with Ingrid, but I know that she’s balling in heaven right now and having a great time, and I have that hope of seeing her again. which is one of the coolest things about our faith. And so to be able to share that with my kids and God using that through us to do whatever he’s going to do in the kingdom, that’s an awesome thing that I can’t lose sight of,” said Monty.