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Coach Monty Williams discusses life after his wife’s death

‘Quitting is not an option … you just gotta keep moving forward’

It was a phone call former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams could never have prepared himself for.

He knew something was horribly awry when his daughter answered a call in February informing them that Ingrid, his wife of 20 years, was in a hospital fighting for her life after being involved in a head-on car collision. Three of his children were also in the vehicle, but escaped with minor injuries. Ingrid Williams died a short time later.

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“I knew when I was talking to my daughter, because she answered the phone, I knew at that moment that my life was going to change,” Williams said in a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm. “I can’t explain it, but I knew that everything was going to be different … I felt that in my heart. This phone call was different. It’s one of those things you never get rid of.”

News of the car accident began circulating on social media platforms. Athletes, fans, coaches and those who know the Williams family showed an outpouring of love and support through tweets and Facebook posts. In one of the toughest times in Williams’ life, he still kept a positive attitude and relied on his faith. Yet, Williams couldn’t continue to coach. A month after Ingrid’s death, the Thunder announced that Williams would not be returning to the team.

Williams spent his time off to care for his kids, but also realized he wanted to keep his wife’s memory alive by doing the things she would have wanted him to do. His first step was getting back to coaching.

It was one of the things that brought him peace, Williams said, so he accepted the opportunity to continue as an assistant coach for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team, which will compete during the Summer Games, which begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro. It is Williams’ first time coaching since the death of his wife five months ago. ESPN reported on July 30 that he will probably accept a job with the San Antonio Spurs.

“Quitting is not an option, it’s just life,” Williams said. “You have to be able to get up, face your flaws. Whatever it is — a step, an inch, you just gotta keep moving forward.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.