We told you this was coming over the weekend, but Tuesday it became official — Jeff Hornacek is the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
He takes over for Lindsey Hunter, who took over for Alvin Gentry, both of whom were let go (Gentry 41 games into the season). This is a hire that should go over well with the fan base — Hornacek was an All-Star Suns player who was very popular in Phoenix, and he still lives in the city in the off-season.
This is a job all about player development — the Suns are not going to be good next season, but they can start to put in a foundation of energy and style of play to build on as they acquire talent. That is Hornacek’s job — more teacher than just coach. But look for the Suns to be an up-tempo team.
This was the first big move for new Suns GM Ryan McDonough (who was hired just weeks ago out of the Celtics organization).
“I knew he was working with Utah, at first working with players on their shooting, and then his role expanded over the past few years, to the point where he is an assistant coach on the bench,” McDonough said in an interview on the Suns official Web site. “He helped with all aspects of their operation, including scouting and drawing up plays. For a guy who has not yet been a head coach in the NBA, he has a very diverse skillset, and a lot of experience that he brings to the Suns, so I am thrilled that he is going to be our next head coach…
“Another thing that we were really looking for, was a big-time development guy, who could make our players better, both those players that we have on our roster now and the players that we’re going to bring in in the future. Jeff got rave reviews with his on-court work with players in Utah.”
Hornacek reportedly got a three-year, $6 million deal with the third year at the team’s option.
Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.
But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.
Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.
Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:
“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”
The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.
There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.
But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.
Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.
Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:
In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.
It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.
Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams – out.
Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.
Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.
The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee. Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.
The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.
Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.
The Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season – the second-earliest firing in NBA history.
They didn’t stop there.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Firing assistant coaches during the season has become Phoenix’s m.o. I’m just not sure what it accomplishes.
Were Watson, Nate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser all so bad at their jobs? If so, why did the Suns figure that out simultaneously?
Were the firings designed to shake up a losing team? If so, wouldn’t ousting Watson have been enough?
Will Phoenix replace those assistants? If not, will the team have the resources to properly train its players?
The Suns are filled with young players who need coaching, particularly skill development. This move looks like it will put them further behind.