Update: Per Paul Coro, it's definitely happening: Jeff Hornacek is returning to the Valley to coach the Phoenix Suns

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:



Would this be the right hire?

  543 votes | Results


Judging Garrett based on his playing time for the Suns


Diante didn't exactly cement himself as a NBA player in his rookie season. In fact, he did much the opposite. The most glaring deficiency is his overall shooting ability. Garrett ranked 434th in eFG% out of 469 players that stepped on a NBA court last season. When factoring in that 19 of the 36 players below Garrett played less than 60 minutes the entire season it becomes readily apparent that he was one of the most atrocious shooters in the league.

The next area of infamy is the turnovers per 36 minutes. Garrett averaged 3.9, which slotted him as 16th worst in the league. Of the 15 somehow worse than him only three played more minutes.

Not all of this section consists of me making denigrating remarks about Garrett's game, though. Diante did average 7.5 assists per 36, which was good enough for 19th in the league. Only one player ahead of him played less minutes on the season, so this makes Garrett somewhat of an outlier. Interestingly enough, the Suns had three players in the top 23 in assists per 36 - Goran Dragic 7.9, Garret 7.5 and Kendall Marshall 7.3 - which contradicts the prevailing sentiment that the Suns lack of shooting was holding their point guards back.

What about thievery? Diante is morally reprehensible. His 2.4 per 36 ranks him 7th in the NBA. The top three in the league played a combined 65 minutes. The other three are Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe.

So Garrett is one of the worst players in the league at shooting and taking care of the ball, but in the ranks of the elite at distributing and burglary. Is the chasmic difference startling? Not so much. The sample size is still microscopic enough there is no way to confirm these as definite trends. It is somewhat interesting to see these areas at such opposite ends of the spectrum, though.

Grade: C-

Judging Garrett based on his backcourt bench cohort


Neither of these guys had stellar years. While Kendall's bemoaned shooting woes placed him 12th in eFG% among Suns this season, Diante managed to finish dead last (16). In WS/36 Marshall ranks 12th again while Garrett once again is in the caboose.

Surprisingly, Garrett beats out Marshall in his one plus level skill (assists). Diante also shows his more diverse skill set with the edge in rebounding and steals.

While I give Kendall the slight nod among the rookies, I think Marshall clearly distances himself by virtue of being nearly three years younger than Garrett.

Grade: D+

Judging Garrett based on his stints with the Bakersfield Jam

Garrett excelled in his role for the Jam. He averaged 17.3 points (49.1% FG) and 7.3 assists in eight regular season appearances. He even made 13-21 three point attempts and 17-21 free throws, suggesting that his NBA numbers may not be entirely reflective of his ability. Is he awestruck or just unable to get similar looks at the highest level. Free throw shooting should be static, so maybe it's a case of the former...

His playoff numbers were even better as he averaged 21.0 points (50% FG), 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds in two games. Turnovers were still an issue for Garrett, however, as he averaged 3.0 per game over his 10 total appearances.

Garrett is eminently qualified as a D-Leaguer, but his ability to be productive as a pro is very suspect.

Grade: A-

Overall Grade: C

Garrett started the season as a fourth string rookie point guard who snuck onto the roster and played like one. He shouldn't have been better than third stringer Marshall, though he was close. He didn't do anything to make a case for an expanded role, but also fared well enough with the Jam to maintain a lambent glimmer of future potential. With an expected roster shake up it is unlikely that Garrett will return to the Suns as an end of the bench security guard, but hopefully he hasn't played himself out of the league. He will turn 25 at the start of next season and that's starting to get up there in terms of unproven prospects. I believe that Garrett met his expectations, but those expectations were practically non-existent.

Strengths Oladipo has two qualities which may be the best in the draft: his motor and his defense. Victor plays at a much faster pace than every player he shares the court with. On both ends of the...

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Besides the Phoenix Suns, there are another seven (seven!) head coaching openings this spring, And that doesn't even include Keith Smart in Sacramento who still has a job but knows a new ownership is taking over the team. Only the Cleveland Cavaliers have filled their spot with Mike Brown - formerly of the Cavs with the Los Angeles Lakers in between.

A head coach is important during the draft process to run the individual workouts with prospects and give his take on which players would be best fits for his coaching style and offensive and defensive schemes. Players and coaches have to be able to understand each other and somewhat speak the same language, or their performance on the court might suffer. Especially with rookies.

Lottery teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers all need coaches. Pseudo-lottery Milwaukee Bucks need a coach as well. Three openings exist on playoff teams: The Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers came up short of expectations and decided the coach was the problem.

Why are teams waiting so long to fill their coaching position?

The delay, which could extend to late June

Because some of the best coaching prospects are still roaming the sidelines in the Conference Finals, that's why. Brian Shaw (Indiana), Mike Budenholzer (San Antonio), David Fizdale (Miami) and Lionel Hollins and Dave Joerger (Memphis) are all on the short list of favorites.

Indiana, in particular, has declined all interview requests through the end of the playoffs. Not only is Brian Shaw on a lot of teams' lists, so is GM Kevin Pritchard to take over front office openings.

The still-working coaches

Fizdale and Joerger, who have never been head coaches in the NBA, are wanted by the lottery-bound rebuilding teams.

Hollins, whose contract expires in June, is coveted by teams with big aspirations like the Clippers, Nets and maybe even the Hawks.

Shaw and Budenholzer are wanted by everyone - they are long-time #2 men ready for the #1 position. They have the perfect profile for any coaching position. They will have their pick of openings.

The openings

For established coaches, the Clippers and Nets openings are the very cream of the crop. Guys like Alvin Gentry and Nate McMillan will be hot after those positions because your first year could include a Conference Finals appearance without adding any new talent. Those teams want the best of the best, and will likely try hard to grab Lionel Hollins before anything else.

The Atlanta Hawks position is quite interesting as well: they have a GM with an open pocketbook intent on adding huge names this summer. If they land Dwight Howard and Chris Paul in a package deal, the Hawks could be playoff contenders. But if they miss on Howard (most likely to return to LA or sign with Houston if Paul doesn't come to Atlanta too) and Paul, the cupboard is bare. Josh Smith wants out, and he's the next best free agent on the market. So this position is a wildcard risk. Latest rumor has Budenholzer at the top.

The other openings all have tough days ahead. All are in the lottery or just on the cusp of it. There's an exciting challenge to taking over a non-playoff team, but also a lot of pressure to make it work quickly.

The Phoenix Suns

It's still hard to tell exactly which guy is at the top of the Suns priority list. Suns GM Ryan McDonough hinted the other night that his timeline had slowed down on the coaching front, partly because of the complexities involved in interviewing coaches still in the playoffs.

J.B. Bickerstaff (Rockets) and Steve Clifford (Lakers) formally interviewed this week for the Suns job. Lindsey Hunter interviewed last week, and Jeff Hornacek (Utah) and Kelvin Sampson (Houston) are likely coming to town very soon. So too will Quin Snyder (Russia) and maybe even Mike Malone (Golden State). McDonough said he's conducted a number of phone interviews as well.

But there is no end in sight, and McDonough is prepared to host prospects in Phoenix without a coaching staff and without even his primary player development guy still under contract (Corey Gaines, who is coaching the WNBA Mercury right now).

Without a coaching staff or a player development staff beyond Ralph Sampson, who exactly is going to conduct these player workouts? That's a big question. Bench coaches Dan Panaggio and Noel Gillespie are still available, I believe. Probably, the Suns will bring in some hired-guns to help organize and conduct the workouts.

Update: Lead Assistant Igor Kokoskov is still under contract through end of June as well, and could be tapped to lead workouts. Kokoskov coaches the Georgian team each summer, so I'm not sure when he leaves. Plus, his contract is up soon.

Expect the Suns to run a tight ship and make the player workouts as good as anyone's. Certainly, their medical evaluations, headed by Aaron Nelson, will be world class. The Suns identify good players. But it's not ideal if your entire coaching staff isn't taking part in the evaluation process.

The leaders?

While the Suns already have access to most of their favorites, my guess is that Shaw and Budenholzer are way up there and McDonough won't want to make a decision until he can at least talk to both of them.

Budenholzer has been made available for interviews between series, but nothing has been made public of a formal interview with the Suns.

Shaw has not. He hasn't talked to a soul. It seems he's at the top of everyone's list, though Hollins and other established coaches might get the nod in Brooklyn and LA.

McDonough hinted that his list is growing and shrinking at the same time, meaning the names are changing. It's possible he's also after Lionel Hollins himself. Hollins used to coach in Phoenix, so it wouldn't hurt to at least talk to him right?

McDonough may also want to talk to Joerger and Fizdale as well.

Regardless, don't hold your breath on a new coach yet. Just hope the Suns get the guy they really want, not the first available.

Strengths One of the best pure shooters in the 2013 draft class, California Golden Bears guard Allen Crabbe played three years of efficient ball for well-respected head coach Mike Montgomery. At...

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