- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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The first time Chris Paul referenced something his old coach in New Orleans, Monty Williams, used to say, we smiled. The second time, we took note. After that, well, you kind of got the message.
Paul had a good experience with his coaching staff in New Orleans. Williams being the head coach, Michael Malone being his lead assistant.
It's no wonder then that Malone's name has floated to the top of the early lists of candidates for the Clippers job, now that Vinny Del Negro has officially been let go. The lead assistant for the Golden State Warriors has always been regarded as a shrewd tactician, but the extra warm fuzzy feelings from Paul don't hurt his case.
Williams, for one, thinks his time is overdue.
"You don't know what it takes to get a job. It's not just about basketball all the time. But I just hope, I hope that he gets a job soon," Williams told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I know he really wants to do it, and I know he'll be a really good head coach. The tough part is knowing I gotta coach against him because I know he really knows his stuff."
Williams said he hired Malone as an assistant on his staff in New Orleans because of the way he saw him working with young players when they were both assistant coaches -- Williams in Portland, Malone in Cleveland.
"I didn't have any relationship with Mike at all when I hired him," Williams said. "So that was a tough hire when you don't know someone. But I just wanted the best guy for the job.
"Mike was always a good sounding board, he wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in."
It should be noted that Malone also has a reputation for standing up a bit too forcefully at times. Williams said he appreciated that fire, though.
"I've really grown from the coaches around me who aren't afraid to voice their opinions," Williams said. "Mike was smart enough, he knew the game well enough to give me something that was going to help the team that didn't have anything to do with him.
"I can only base it on my experience with him. I was the head coach and I know that he made me a better head coach. He's certainly a guy that can run a team."
2dMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon