Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant blinked back tears during an emotional morning shootaround interview as he talked about the loss of Ingrid Williams, the wife of assistant coach Monty Williams who died following a Tuesday evening car crash.
"Just love Coach Monty so much, man,'' Durant said. "I feel for him, man. It's somebody we all love.''
The Thunder forward joined his teammates for a moment of silence for Ingrid Williams before their 121-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night, hours after he strained to compose himself when expressing his condolences to Monty Williams for a tragedy he referred to as something "I just don't understand."
Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson was also among the many Thunder and New Orleans players and coaches who lovingly recalled Ingrid Williams and broke down in tears at word of her death. He has credited the Williamses with helping him to summon the emotional strength and to move forward after his girlfriend, reality television actress Gia Allemand, committed suicide in 2013.
"For me personally, she was there through the toughest time in my life with the loss of my girlfriend," Anderson said in an interview on SportsCenter, going out of his way to praise Ingrid Williams' efforts for helping him make progress working through his grief. "She and Monty stayed up for me all night. They were there continuous for me for months, years. I'm very indebted to their family. Ingrid has such a special place in my heart. She was such a strong, amazing woman, she loved God, loved her family, loved her husband. It's so devastating."
Monty Williams coached Anderson for four seasons in New Orleans. The Pelicans also held a moment of silence for Ingrid Williams before its game Wednesday night against Utah.
"It was like a gunshot yesterday for me," Anderson said of hearing the news of Ingrid Williams' death. "It hit me in the gut. I know it did for a lot of our organization, a lot of the guys."
The Thunder's Anthony Morrow, who also played for Williams with the Pelicans, said he's keeping Williams' family in his prayers.
"In my opinion, God called one of his true angels back home," Morrow said. "She was the person you could always go to with anything. Coach Williams as well. Those two are the standard when it comes to marriage, when it comes to being believers. Just inspirations. I feel like I lost a family member for sure, and I'm sure everyone else feels the same way."
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said it would be different Thursday without assistant Williams to his right, but the team had no choice but to prepare for the game.
"I thought our group this morning was as good as it could be coming in,'' Donovan said.
"Everybody, I think, personally, is hurting for Monty and his family. Just trying to have faith right now that Ingrid is in a better place, and hopeful that our guys will come out there and play to the best of their ability.''
Durant was also asked about the situation later and said it remained fresh in his mind after the game.
"We love the game so much, but that's not really what's important,'' Durant said. "It's definitely something that we love to do, but relationships, family -- those things -- that's what's most important in life, not the latest trends or the fashion world or all that stuff. It's cool and all that stuff, but the stuff that lasts forever is relationships, family and love.''
Ingrid Williams, 44, was involved in a crash Tuesday night. An oncoming car crossed the center line and hit her SUV just outside of downtown Oklahoma City, said police Capt. Paco Balderrama. That driver was pronounced dead at the scene, Balderrama said.
The Oklahoman reported that Ingrid Williams was traveling with three of her five children at the time of the crash. Balderrama told the newspaper that one of the children has been released from the hospital and "the other two are banged up but expected to be OK."
Monty Williams was hired by New Orleans to his first and only head-coaching job in 2010 and fired after last season. He helped guide the Pelicans to the postseason twice and had a record of 173-221.
Pelicans star Anthony Davis spent three seasons with Williams as his coach and said Ingrid Williams was important to him, too. He said in a tweet: "Completely devastated. Ingrid Williams was like a 2nd mother to me when I got to NOLA. My thoughts & prayers are with Monty & the family.''
First-year Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Ingrid had a significant impact. The news really affected his team as it prepared for its game Wednesday night, and the players were still dealing with it Thursday.
"It was really difficult for our guys to get through it because he [Monty Williams] has had such an impact on the players, and she had even more of an impact, maybe, with the mothering that she did for most of the guys and the type of person that she was,'' Gentry said. "She wanted everybody to feel like they had a home away from home.''
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.