It's a bit (okay, a LOT) surreal to be so excited about consecutive Phoenix Suns moves, but that's what happening and I don't know what to do about it.
I feel a bit like the Grinch (Jim Carrey version) who flops and plops around a while on his mountain in agony for a few moments until he figures out the source of the problem - that his cold, dead heart had started beating again. Add in a few more of these moments and I might start "leaking" some tears of joy.
For now, I'm happy with a beating heart. Lon Babby has hit a couple of home runs with his new General Manager (Ryan McDonough) and new head coach (Jeff Hornacek).
McDonough was widely lauded nationally as a great hire, a man already being mentioned in the breath of young, successful front office types like Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, Rob Hennigan and Rich Cho before making his first move.
And now Jeff Hornacek is coming back into the fold after twenty one years away. While he doesn't have a long history on the bench, he's been mentioned as a head coaching candidate since nearly the day he retired from playing. He was considered in 2004 by Danny Ainge (another former Sun), who settled on Doc Rivers. He was considered in 2008 by the Suns, who settled on Terry Porter. In both cases, the interest was a non-starter while Hornacek stayed away from coaching until his kids graduated college.
This time, Hornacek is ready and the Suns pounced. Let's read a little of what others have to say about Hornacek from the SLC Dunk guys at the Utah Jazz's SB Nation blog.
Goodbye Jeff Hornacek - Dianaallen
When the Zone has interviewed the assistant coaches or during the halftime interviews with assistants, Jeff was the only coach I felt that said anything concrete, anything useful. What we'd hear from Sanders and Lowe is much like what we'd hear from Corbin, just a bunch of jargon. Jeff on the other hand would name specific things players had to do better, he would talk about specific plays, it wasn't the usual, "continue to get better" "work harder".
Over the years it seems like Jeff as been great at working with the players, building relationships with them.
Horny is the coach that seems to have pulled the Cour Four aside in timeouts to give instructions to or to encourage them. Hornacek will be greatly missed.
Horny in Logan - Kurt Adison - Giving a free speech to a small audience
His family did not have money for him to go to college. He worked making cups for McDonald's his freshman year. He worked hard to earn a scholarship and pushed himself to make it playing basketball.
His duties grew when Korver asked him to "watch him shoot". At that time Korver shot the ball flat and helped him with his arch. Then Wesley Matthews asked for help and etc. He works with Gordon Hayward a lot now.
One other thing he mentioned was that players don't seem to practice as much anymore. In "the old days", you would shoot from 9-10am then practice 10-12pm, come back after lunch to shoot some more. Now he says "it's like pulling teeth to get guys to stay for a 1/2 hr to shoot after practice. They like to run home to their video games."
Others have lauded the pick as well, either lobbying for Hornacek to be a head coach or praising it today.
Suns should consider Hornacek - Tom Chambers - arizonasports.com
"One name that always comes to my mind who was a coach of mine even though he wasn't a coach on the court was Jeff Hornacek," said Chambers. "He was spectacular, played in the league and was an All-Star in the league.
"I believe firmly that if you've done it and you're asking these kids today to do something you've already done, it's an easier task. Jeff came from a coaching family, he's always been a coach, he had to always work to hone his game...He knows what hard work is all about."
Hornacek a good fit for Suns - Jared Bray
As an assistant with the Jazz, Horny has helped several players improve their shooting technique. In fact, thanks to Coach Hornacek, Alec Burks went from shooting 29.2 percent from behind the arc in college to 35.0 as a pro.
Likewise, Gordon Hayward was able to increase his 3-point shooting percentage from 34.6 in 2011-12 to 41.5 this past season.
"Having a great shooter like that work with me helped a lot," Hayward said. "Not just with mechanics, but with my confidence."
Hornacek on fast track for head coaching job - Gordon Monson
And that's the key - similar in some ways to what Mark Jackson has done at Golden State - to what Hornacek could bring to a team as a head coach: an easy, intelligent approach, but one that still has high standards for success. Some observers might think Hornacek is too nice of a guy, too well-adjusted. But he has always had a no-nonsense competitive streak that runs to his core. That's what enabled him to go on playing on one leg, dragging the other up and down the floor, in his latter seasons. It's what helped him walk on at Iowa State and win, what helped him become an All-Star as a second-round pick by Phoenix. Former Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo once said of Hornacek: "Most of the people in the league thought Jeff was too slow, not good enough to play in the NBA. But there was something special about him. He had a big heart."
Amar Smith - Manager - SLC Dunk
"Personally it will be tough to see," Amar Smith, manager of SLC Dunk said via email this morning. "Because Jeff has been a huge part of my fan experience. Furthermore, the Jazz can't draft players who can't shoot anymore because he would take the extra time out of his life to give private coaching -- even Kyle Korver (who set an NBA record for 3pt% in a season) attributes Jeff for that mark. He makes your struggling offensive players better, and makes your great offensive players find another two or three shots in their arsenal.
"A number of Jazz fans would rather we trade you former Suns player Tyrone Corbin and keep Jeff. But our front office made their decision.
"All the best Jeff."