UPDATE 4:31 ET: When the owner and GM are talking to players to see what the problems are, that rarely bodes well for the coach. Welcome to Jeff Hornacek’s world. From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager Ryan McDonough held individual meetings with Suns players on Sunday, trying to gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the team’s spiral, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
We will see where this leads over the next 48 hours. But a coaching change is not going to change the fortunes of this banged-up, mismatched roster in the short term.
3:04 ET: Phoenix Suns’ owner Robert Sarver doesn’t believe in tanking, in being bad to get good, he expects a rebuild on the fly and the Suns to be a playoff team. Which the Suns haven’t been for five seasons, tying a franchise-record drought (dating back to the 1970s when this was a young franchise).
Now with the Suns have lost four in a row, have players throwing towels at their coach, won just 3-of-10, and are sliding out of playoff contention. With all that coach Jeff Hornacek finds himself on the hot seat, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
The Phoenix Suns’ 5-15 nosedive, which included a home loss Saturday night to the Philadelphia 76ers, has put the job of coach Jeff Hornacek under immediate threat, league sources told ESPN.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns have been forced to contemplate a coaching change far sooner than they hoped to because of a slide that has dropped them to 12-20 and 11th in the Western Conference, with fears growing within the organization that the team is no longer responding to Hornacek.
Players throwing towels at their coach is a sign of a lost locker room, although said player is not exactly the easiest guy to deal with around the league. Rumors about Hornacek’s stability had been circulating since the Suns chose not to pick up his option for the 2016-17 season this summer, making him a lame duck coach in his final guaranteed year.
Any coach who takes over for Hornacek right now will struggle to turn anything around this season. The key reason is the Suns likely will be without leading scorer Eric Bledsoe for an extended period after he suffered a non-contact knee injury Saturday (there is no official report yet of how long he will be out, but reports are it will be a while). Combine that with the fact Tyson Chandler isn’t the player they thought they were getting, Markeiff Morris isn’t playing as well as expected, and the trade rumors swirling around this team. That said, in a down bottom of the Western Conference the Suns remain just a couple games out of the playoffs.
Hornacek surprised everyone by winning 48 games his first season in Phoenix, doing it with a team most expected to be near the bottom of the league (that season 48 wins was not enough to make the playoffs in the West). However, that season may have set expectations too high that this team was farther along the rebuilding path than it was, and the past two seasons have shown that. Since the strong season, the Suns have switched the guard combo to Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, made a big move for Chandler on the back end of his career, and seen other free agent moves not pan out. Rather than a slow rebuild, this has been a push to playoffs not worrying about the ceiling.