For the most part, this was a press conference that went about as you might expect it to go. I wasn't there. I'm in Washington, D.C. (where the weather is a gorgeous, sunny 60 degrees) but I had more time than our other folks today so I listened to the full audio and am providing this report.
Enjoy. Or not.
There were a couple of main points that I took from what Lon had to say. I'll start with one that's fairly inconsequential but also pretty interesting in a gossip-y sort of way.
Asked about the Chuckster stepping into the hot seat, Babby had a very fun answer.
"I'll consider anybody."
Great news for our own candidate!
But then Lon goes on...
"I think the job requires rowing the boat every single day and it's an all consuming job and my impression is that he has a pretty full and good life and taking on a challenge like this might be something that he really doesn't want if he knew what it entailed."
"But I don't really want to go beyond that."
Well, that's good because you wouldn't want to offend Chuck by implying he's too lazy for the job (which is probably a fair assessment IMHO).
As for who will fill the role, Babby left the door wide open. He'd like someone with GM experience but it's not necessary. He thinks the person will have at least front office experience (sorry, Grant) but in theory that's not a requirement (go, Grant!). The candidate will not likely come from "in-house" options.
The role will be pretty much the same as it was for Blanks: First and foremost he will be the "Chief Talent Officer" and have loudest voice in the room on basketball decisions as has been the case for the last three years.
Babby made a point of not scape-goating Blanks: "I don't for one minute absolve myself for the decisions we've made."
The Suns are at the early stages of the replacement process with no details given about potential names, interview schedules, etc. Lon simply said they will move with "all due deliberate speed" and won't rush but there is some urgency.
"We can't control the calendar. The calendar controls us," Babby added, implying that he can't stop time.
The preference is to have the job filled before the draft, but Lon promised that they would "get it right" regardless.
John Treloar appears to be leading the draft prep process and Babby, as he's often wont to do, promised the Suns would be fully prepared.
This bit stood out to me as "news" in that it was new to me. Babby called this the "summer of analytics". He said that last summer was about getting training facilities from best in the league to world class.
Lon went on to explain the need to integrate the data into coaching as well and that would be a major point of emphasis this summer and something the new GM would need to understand.
Babby's goal was make the Suns into one of the top-tier teams in terms using analytics to help make basketball decisions. They have someone internally running that program and have invested in technology to gather data and now they need to take that to the next level with the new GM and coach.
I'm going to read between the lines here because Lon (rightly) wasn't clear about Blanks' failings.
Lon talked early on about needing to be respectful of the past and that they "lost our way a bit" on that front. He also stressed the need to acknowledge and respect the employees that have been here many many years.
In my opinion, that's something Blanks not only failed to do, but actively thwarted.
He came in like a quiet bull and left steaming piles of dung at the feet of everyone who was already in the corral. It's good to hear Babby recognize that and make strides to repair the damage.
Along those lines, he several times defined his goal as building and earning the confidence and trust of all the various stakeholders: fans, business partners, players, staff, media and (most importantly) employees.
Was Blanks disrespectful of employees? From what I observed and have heard, the answer is yes and Lon seemed to acknowledge that as best he could. Mad props for that, Lon.
Here's some paraphrased bullet points.
- This was painful for both sides (except Blanks text message to Coro: "the news is not bad news" suggests the feeling might not be mutual..whatever. Words.)
- Want to make great franchise better. While not reflected in our record, we've accomplished that. (huh?)
- Have a list of potential coaching candidates. Wouldn't say if started contacting people. Lindsey Hunter is a "good, strong candidate." (hmmmm)
- This is still a great place to work. Great city, great franchise with great history. (YES IT IS)
- Expectations ratcheted down so person coming in will be in a great spot.
- Not likely to go with coach/GM as same person. Don't see it's possible to for one person to do.
- Where I (Babby) am now is different than three years ago. Lessons learned.
- The most important part of the GM position is the same. "I have a little more confidence on the margins to do certain things". Role is about player and talent evaluation and making basketball decisions.
- Expected to be better than we were this season. About mid-way through we embraced where we were and used that to see what had with young players.
- Goal is to accumulate assets: players, picks, etc. and to build confidence that we are moving in the right direction.
- Lon still believes keeping Nash last two years was the right decision. "We owed it to that group to let that terrific period of Suns basketball to run it's course." (Me too)
Our friends at Valley of the Suns compiled the Seven Best Lance Blanks quotes. Props to them for even finding seven quotes...these are fun:
Lance Blanks' funniest quotes
No. 5: To open Michael Beasley’s introductory press conference “I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my whole career to welcome this young man into our organization. This is just extremely exciting for me as I know it is many others in the organization. I honestly feel this way, he is a wonderful, wonderful young man. I feel fortunate to be sitting next to him.”
Attention: Lon Babby, Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations.
Hopefully this graph that propitiates my future success if the position of Suns' General Manager is bestowed upon me has caught your attention. Many people fall into the snare of submitting a nondescript resumé that fails to capture the attention of the reader, so I have attempted to make mine salient and clever.
My objective, as previously alluded to, is to earn the position of General Manger of the Phoenix Suns. If you peruse the remainder of this document I believe you will discover that I am eminently qualified.
I have no formal experience as a GM at any level, but the Suns' organization hasn't let lack of pedigree preclude them from hiring motivated self starters (Lindsay Hunter). Sometimes an infusion of fresh talent will foster renascence in a struggling business. I'm that fresh talent.
Phoenix Suns' fan (12/2/1978 to present)
Not only have I experienced the zeniths and nadirs of 34 years of Suns' basketball as a fan, but I've also been exposed to the foudroyant successes and abject failures of the team in free agency, trades and the draft. I believe that all three of these areas can be exploited to return Phoenix to the traditional prominence of this proud franchise.
By learning from the actions of my (hopefully) predecessors I have been inveterated with a profound knowledge of the inner workings and nuances necessary for a team to thrive in this league. I have been told that I most closely resemble a hybrid of Daryl Morey and Sam Presti, which, although quite flattering, I feel is a fair comparison.
Member of Brightside of the Sun (7/27/2010 to present)
This is where I first revealed my expansive ken of all that is basketball to a larger audience. Since railing against the moves of the Summer of 2010, which felt like a suffocating blanket of impending doom, I have been consistently astute in my judgment of decisions within the Suns organization and throughout the league as a whole. While I have criticized many moves such as Hedo Turkoglu's arrival and Goran Dragic's departure, I have also praised moves such as Hedo's departure and Goran's return. I maintain a latitudinarian perspective with allows me to be captious when necessary and issue encomiums when appropriate.
Staff writer on Brightside of the Sun (5/21/2011 to present)
This is where the rubber hit the road and street credentials gained traction. My body of work has been overwhelmingly captivating, entertaining and informative. Here is a sample of work I've performed in this capacity:
The Composition of the Sun(s). This details shortcomings with the constitution of the current roster.
Phoenix Suns Hamlet style: to tank, or not to tank: that is the question. This should give you insight on my cultured and sophisticated range of interests.
Phoenix Suns franchise building: Choose Your Own Adventure style. This story, which was featured on ESPN Truehoop, delineates the pitfalls of the Suns' recent transgressions.
How Sarver Stole Christmas (and winning). This satire revolves around the timeless classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Phoenix Suns Podcast 16: Lon Babby given a license to drive. Here is a sample of the podcasts Kris Habbas and I have collaborated on during the 2012-13 season. This should give you a good example of my polished public speaking.
Additional writing samples can be provided upon request.
My area of expertise as an engineer may not translate perfectly to the position I am seeking, but several of the required classes I took while pursing my degree might adumbrate favorably in the role of GM.
Psychology could be useful in filtering out personalities that aren't conducive to a winning environment (Michael Beasley).
Communications introduced me to effective public speaking, which I've also had a great deal of exposure to professionally as well as in my personal life. I would be happy to help coach Hunter improve upon his deficiency in this area if he continues in his role.
Economics taught me that there is no such thing as a selfless act or a free lunch. These lessons reinforced my core values that I am not entitled to anything. The payoff for an indefatigable and pertinacious approach is the satisfaction of a job well done. I may not always be able to control results, but I can always control my effort.
I am a team player and I will approach this job as a team effort. I realize that my perspicacity has its limitations and I have no problem seeking advice when I lack experience or conviction on an issue. I have no qualms deferring if another person has inspiration which transcends mine with respect to a challenge. I would have superiority based on title and I would welcome the responsibility and accountability of the position (which I feel should start at the top), but the input of my team would be respected and valued.
I don't fear being held accountable for my actions. I may not always be able to control results, but I am fully cognizant that I will be judged based on them. Ultimately, this is a results based business. I will have no problem admitting fault (including falling on the sword) if things go awry while I'm at the helm. If I fail, which I won't, I will leave in a dignified and respectful manner without exhibiting the rancor of a disgruntled former employee.
I boast a robust mélange of characteristics which will translate well to my interactions with the fans and media. I can be blunt, candid, jovial or calculating depending on the situation. I have no problem calling things like I see them, but also understand the appropriate level of subterfuge and misdirection necessary to function in my role. Not everything can be made public knowledge. Everything that can be, though, will be conveyed in the most transparent terms possible. The fans aren't stupid and I won't insult them by treating them as if they are. I don't want them feeling like they can't trust me.
I have the uncanny ability to differentiate between my ass and a hole in the ground, which is something I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear based on what I surmise may be the sketchy qualifications of other applicants and, possibly, former and current employees.
I have received an endorsement from Dave King, whom you have had frequent contact with during the recently completed season, on BSotS (although at least part of his interest in my assumption of this role is the hilarity he believes might ensure based on our interaction).
Kris Habbas, another person you are familiar with, would be someone who will give you an earnest assessment of my qualifications.
Many of the other members on the site have also avered they would support this move. Please feel free to contact any of them.
Additional references can be provided upon request.
I want to thank you for taking the time to peruse my resumé and appreciate any consideration you may give to my application for the vacant position of Phoenix Suns' General Manager. It would be my pleasure to meet with you, informally or as part of an interview process, to expound upon and add to the body of work already presented herein. The Suns have been mired in a morass the last few seasons based on past discretions and the normal tribulations or competing in the NBA. I am the person that can help reverse this trajectory and help bring a championship to the deserving fans of the Phoenix Suns. We can do it, Lon, if you will give me the opportunity to work with you.
Rise like a Phoenix! It's a simile full of cheese and a cliche that's used far too often. But in the case of THIS Phoenix Suns franchise, it might just be justified.
It's a well-known path that led this club to their current state of ruinous ashes. The mistakes are numerous. The decisions fateful. But that's the past and all that matters now is the future and as Mr. King so aptly stated, the most important decision is the replacement for the failed Lance Blanks.
Today, we get our first hints at who might be on that list and the names are intriguing to say the least, starting with Grant Hill.
Phoenix Suns, General Manager Lance Blanks part ways
The long-held internal hope that popular former Suns player Grant Hill, who plans on retiring, will patch up a strained relationship with Babby, his former agent, and return as GM has been resuscitated. Suns Ring of Honor member Charles Barkley has expressed hopes of being a GM and met Sarver for the first time this year, but the organization could not compete with his TNT salary.
Grant Hill. The guy who once told me that he wanted to stay involved in basketball after his playing career was over. The guy whose family still resides in Phoenix. The man who would walk in the door with instant credibility and respect.
He's almost the perfect partner for Lon Babby and one would have to think that their long relationship could overcome a little blip that came after Lon (rightly) only offered Grant a one-year deal last summer.
But the story doesn't end there. Other names mentioned in Coro's report include:
[...]Milwaukee assistant GM Jeff Weltman to people with local ties like Tony Ronzone (USA Basketball scouting director and Dallas player personnel director), Eddie Johnson (Suns analyst) and David Griffin (Cleveland vice president of basketball operations) to experienced, out-of-work GMs like David Morway (Indiana fame) and Mark Warkentien (Denver).
It all makes you wonder if SB Nation's Tom Ziller is onto something when he wrote the following about the Suns situation:
A very odd straw on Lance Blanks' back ends his Suns career - SBNation.com
Basically, it looks like the Suns' bosses -- Babby and Sarver -- used Blanks as a hatchet man, and made sure he cut off his own legs in the process.
I scratch my head over this one.
Lon Babby is a very smart guy. I don't put it past him to look at the situation facing the team he took over and determine his first task was to clear the decks of all the mistakes his boss made in the Summer of Sarver (2010) and realize that the process was ALWAYS going to painful. Bringing in a fall guy to do the dirty work does make sense.
If that was his plan, he picked a perfect guy to bumble his way through the next few years while managing to avoid any fatal mistakes, namely taking on a massive contract for a player like Rudy Gay or Josh Smith.
Then again, it's easy to ascribe motives like this in hindsight and it implies a level of deceit and ruthlessness that I'd rather not put on Lon's head.
We can argue if the Suns should have started to rebuild two years sooner, but that horse is beaten, dead and buried. Now, the decks are clear and the Suns have assets to work with so they can...well, rise from the ashes. The idea that Grant Hill could be the guy to come in and lead that process is very promising indeed.