Lon Babby said last week that he wanted to pay more respect to the Suns tradition, to the Suns loyalists, than they had done in the past three years. Suns fans agree. McDonough says the coach should embrace analytics, be a teacher as well as leader.
None of this is confirmed, but wouldn't it be a PR fourth of July if Lon Babby decided to hire former Sun Charles Barkley as his General Manager and former Sun Jeff Hornacek (who was traded for Barkley) as his head coach?
The entire Suns community would be exploding with cotton candy and sweet tarts if those names headlined a new chapter of Suns lore. Fans would start buying Suns jerseys again, painting their houses and cars orange, begging for season tickets and generating a buzz not seen in these here parts since the last time those guys wore purple and orange.
Say what you want about the Nash years, but the shiny penny feeling of 1989-1992 (Horny's best years) and the 350,000 fan parade for losing the NBA Finals in 1993 (Barkley's best) still remain, to this day, as the greatest moments of pure joy in Suns lore for a multi-generation fan base now laying dormant in the valley.
Back in the Hornacek and Barkley years, my father was a Suns fan through and through. He had season tickets in the 12th row, dedicated an entire room of his house to Suns colors, re-watched every game on VHS after seeing it live, bought autographed this and that, and generally epitomized the ultimate Suns fan.
But after Barkley left, a lot of air went out of the balloon. Through this season, twenty years later, those tickets were still in my dad's name but he stopped going to games in the late 90s. He re-sold the tickets each summer to a friend, who shared them with me the last several years.
Last month, my dad, the friend and I all gave up the tickets. I've got the media pass at this time, so I couldn't even use them last season for the most part. Dad's friend just lost her fire. So we rebuffed the Sixth Man rep and let the tickets go, knowing we could buy back in anytime we wanted because the arena might never be sold out again.
But if Barkley and Hornacek are hired to run the Suns, would Dad or my friend buy back in immediately? Probably not (the team still sucks). But they would at least consider it. Their hearts would pitter-patter with hope and excitement. Their minds would harken back to the glory days of Suns basketball. They would smile, for the first time in a long time, at the future prospects of the Suns franchise.
But are these guys REALLY in the hunt to return to the Suns?
One rumor is from an off the cuff comment by Shaquille O'Neal on TV. At the end of their nightly TNT show during the playoffs, Shaq riffed that Barkley - who was apparently less jovial and cavalier on TNT than usual all evening - was "auditioning" for the Suns GM job. In response, Barkley said... nothing.
Does that mean Barkley had (or would soon) interview for the Suns GM post? Or is that just some made-up crap? The use of the word "auditioning" is suspect to me. Auditioning is for television. Interviewing is for jobs. Was it a simple slip of the tongue?
The other rumor, the one on Hornacek, is even sketchier. Adrian Wojnarowski, the most plugged in NBA reporter in the business, wrote that Hornacek "could be considered" for the Suns' head coach position. It was an innocuous comment that offered no backing, no sourcing. But if it came from Woj, could it be laced with truth?
As you can see, this is all sketchy.
But if I were Lon Babby, I would interview Barkley. Without even thinking twice. Would I expect to hire him? Probably not. But I would want to talk to him. I would want to give Barkley a chance to "wow" me. I would want to compare his answers to my tough questions to the answers I got from real, live front office guys. I would want to see how Barkley stacked up. I've hired novices before, and been successful because of it, thanks to this strategy. And I've discounted novices too, when their answers just didn't stack up. The key is having an open mind.
Jeff Hornacek, on the other hand, is a much better known quantity. He's been an assistant with Utah for years and has a great demeanor. He fits the bill of former players who became successful coaches - he did more with less all through his career. He wasn't the most skilled or most athletic, but he made himself into a star nonetheless. He knows how to mold, and shape, and make it work.
Let's pretend, for a moment, both of these rumors are true. What would a team run by Babby, Barkley and Hornacek look like?
Well, exactly as it looks today. At least for a while.
The Suns have 10 guys under contract for next season already. Barkley would have to hit the ground running (I don't think he's run anywhere in a decade at least) to make a number of trades if he wants to reshape the roster. He clearly doesn't like the one that's already here.
Barkley, who has never held an NBA front office position, would have to learn the ins and outs from Lon Babby, whose only been here for three years, and remake an entire roster within months. Could he do it? Would it be even better than the one he's got now? It's one thing to say what you'd do, to "audition" for a job, but it's quite another to actually DO it well.
I don't think Barkley would be hired over up-and-comers Jeff Weltman or Ryan McDonough, or even a seasoned veteran like Scott Layden or David Morway.
But it sure is fun to think about, isn't it?
Charles Barkley at GM. Maybe he would hire Grant Hill to work alongside him?
Jeff Hornacek at coach. Maybe Horny would hire Eddie Johnson as an assistant to be the team's shooting coach? Or Tom Chambers to coach the big men. Or Paul Westphal to give awesome post-game speeches. Or all three, for goodness sakes.
The team might suck, but at least the fans would get enjoy the press conferences again.
Since the current iteration of the Phoenix Suns is on vacation during these playoffs, we at Bright Side thought it would be fun to relive the Suns' exciting 1993 playoff run with recaps of each game. Today, the Suns and Charles Barkley continue an epic Western Conference Finals series with a loss at home to the Seattle Supersonics, 103-99.
After sleepwalking through game one, Seattle regrouped with jump shooting from Ricky Pierce (34 points) and one of the original "stretch fours" Sam Perkins (19 points). The Sonics were down 10 in the fourth, but came back hard and eventually beat the Suns on a 3-pointer by Sam Perkins with less than 10 seconds left.
Charles Barkley got a put-back on the next possession, but was called for an offensive foul and Seattle escaped with the win.
For the Suns, Charles Barkley was a beast on the night of his MVP ceremony with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Oliver Miller contributed a robust 10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks (wow that guy was talented!), but Dan Majerle was the best player on the court with 29 points (4-8 on threes), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and a steal.
The Sonics got their best contributions from Ricky Pierce on jumpers (34 points on 13 of 20 from the floor) and Shawn Kemp (16 points, 6 rebounds and 7 blocks), but it was Sam Perkins hitting the biggest shot of the night with a 3 at 9.8 on the clock.
Former Sun Eddie Johnson contributed 8 points off the bench for the Sonics.
Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations said that the Suns had lost their way recently, and had not properly respected their rich history in recent years. They may be correcting that mistake in a big way.
Effort had been made to turn a new corner after Amare Stoudemire left in 2010. Steve Nash got a two-year tribute tour with a ragtag Suns team that failed to make the playoffs in his last two years in the Valley. Then after Nash left, the Suns hit rock bottom, all while divesting themselves of many great names and personalities that made the franchise one of the models of the NBA.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Phoenix Suns may be on the verge of taking a huge feel-good step back into the past by following Suns tradition and hiring a former player to lead the troops into the future. Dick Van Arsdale did it in 1987 for 26 games. Paul Westphal did it from 1992-1996. Then Danny Ainge for parts of three seasons, after only 13 games on the bench. Then Frank Johnson.
And now maybe Jeff Hornacek, who was drafted by the Suns at the dawn of the other blackest period of their history, will lead the Suns into the dawn once again.
One of the Phoenix Suns' popular former players - Jeff Hornacek - has emerged as the frontrunner for the franchise's head coaching job, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek is the leading candidate to become the Suns' new head coach. (USA Today Sports)An assistant coach with the Utah Jazz, Hornacek met with new Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and president Lon Babby in the past week in Phoenix.
No offer has yet been extended to Hornacek, but the Suns' search process could be completed within the next week, league sources said.
He was an unheralded second-round pick who made himself into a player, and then an All-Star, and was traded to acquire one of the brightest Suns of all time: Charles Barkley. Hornacek went on to play many great years with the Utah Jazz.
I do admit some surprise here. I thought the Suns would wait until more coaches became available as the playoffs wound down. Brian Shaw, Mike Budenholzer, Dave Joerger, Lionel Hollins. All good candidates with much longer pedigrees as coaches in the NBA.
Hornacek has only two years as a full-time NBA assistant after consulting for a few years before that. The Suns dallied in hiring Hornacek as far back as 2004, but at the time he had no experience and wanted to watch his kids graduate high school before committing to a full time coaching gig.
Now maybe one of the most popular Suns of all time will come home to shepherd a new/old era.
Update from Gambo, who has the Suns in his back pocket: