They're not making headlines. They're not at the mic during press conferences, or leading the huddle during timeouts. They're the engines behind player development and team preparedness for our Phoenix Suns, but we might not know much about them at all. 

They're the Phoenix Suns assistant coaches. 

Let's may know we have former Phoenix Sun all-time favorite "Thunder" Dan Majerle on our bench, and we've been talking recently about the new hire, "defensive coordinator" Elston Turner, but what about Noel, Igor, and Bill? We have an off-season and a lockout, folks. Let's use it to educate (or re-educate) ourselves about our Phoenix Suns!


Break it down with me.....

1. "A Basketball Coach Who Plays Guitar"

Well known for his role in the first Chicago Bulls three-peat (1991-93), Bill Cartwright now calls Phoenix home. At 7'1" in his prime, he's invaluable to the Phoenix Suns as a mentor and teacher to big men such as Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat. After retiring as an NBA player, Cartwright continued to an assistant coaching position with the Bulls, becoming the head coach from 2001 through the 2003 season. 


Bill enjoys playing the guitar, hanging out with his four kids, long walks on the beach, and using Zen Master principles that he learned from coaching under Phil Jackson.




2. Booed on Draft Night


Dan Majerle, aka Thunder Dan, aka Dan the Man, was selected by the Phoenix Suns as the 14th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft (a familiar position), and was immediately believed by the fans to be a bust. The current Suns "Ring of Honor" member and assistant coach, who played ball at Central Michigan University, was booed on draft night when his name was called

Majerle is now loved universally by Suns fans, owns a chain of Phoenix bars, and says he has "no desire to leave Phoenix." That's okay by us, Thunder Dan. 




3. Proud to be an American

A truly international addition to the Phoenix Suns bench, assistant coach Igor Kokoskov was born in Serbia, coached in Belgrade and Yugoslavia at the young age of 24, and was a member of the University of Missouri coaching staff until he became the first non-American assistant coach in the NBA for the Clippers, Pistons, and finally the Phoenix Suns in 2008. 


As Seth reported in June of this year, Igor became an American citizen! Though his wife is already an American citizen, Kokoskov decided to go through the entire process, finally becoming an American citizen this year after a lengthy 7-year process. Video of the (awesomely strange) ceremony is below:


4. The Super-Scout


You may not have heard of Noel Gillespie, but he does about as much for the Phoenix Suns as anyone does. Formerly the team's "advance scout", Noel's job was to prepare scouting reports on upcoming opponents, a seemingly thankless job that required late nights watching tape and a lot of travel. 

Noel decided that wasn't enough, though. Now adding "assistant coach" to his title, he will presumably have a higher level of collaboration with the existing coaching staff. After 8 seasons with the Suns, starting as a video coordinator, I think the promotion to assistant coach is a good one. 

Also, I believe that this picture of him proves that he is a badass. 

Eventually, we'll get to see Markieff do this in a Suns uniform.

It's been hard to keep up with the "is this player going to play overseas?" talk. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are among the star players who have been mentioned as considering this option, as well as the Suns' own Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat. The first 2011 draft pick of note who is reported to be in talks with an overseas team is the Suns' 1st round (#13 overall) draft pick Markieff Morris. According to Paul Coro, Morris' agent Tony Dutt is currently negotiating with Greek team Panathinaikos to play there during the NBA lockout.

Every player's situation is unique with regards to their basketball activities during the lockout. For an established veteran like Steve Nash, there is little progress to be expected in his game by playing in a professional league, and it would more likely only add miles to his odometer. It's a good thing he says he won't play overseas. Marcin Gortat could use more playing time in competitive basketball after his idle years as Dwight Howard's backup, but it looks like injury insurance problems will keep him home as well

Markieff Morris is a different matter altogether. Like other 2011 draft picks, he's unsigned so doesn't have a contract that might be compromised by injury if he plays elsewhere. He's 21 years old and his body still has its best basketball in front of it. The lockout is keeping Morris from a.) summer league, b.) training camp and preseason and c.) getting paid. He deserves all of these things, and it will benefit the Suns if he gets that training, even if it's in Athens.

Jump it for free gyros!

In the same way that all player situations aren't created equally, neither are all overseas leagues and teams created equally. Panathinaikos is a successful team in the established Euroleague. They won the league title last year, and have a reputation as one of the league's consistently best teams. Their head coach, Serbian Zeljko Obradovic, has won eight Euroleague titles and is considered one of the best coaches in Europe.

For Morris to play there wouldn't be the same as playing in summer league and preseason for the Suns, but it would be an experience that would benefit the young player. The competition isn't NBA-level, but is superior to the Big 12 basketball Morris played last year. And, winners are winners. Exposing Morris to winners on a professional level can only help his development.

The risk of injury is always a consideration, but he could injure himself playing in pickup games or in one of the minor leagues in the US just as easily. The only way for Morris to improve at playing basketball is to do more of it. Since the options to play professionally are currently limited in the US, I welcome him going overseas to play with one of the better European teams.

A more important consideration is that Morris' agent is able to secure an "out clause" that allows him to leave the Greek team when the NBA lockout ends. Of course, if he's committed to playing there until their season ends next summer, we can write off his rookie year and that's a problem. Morris' agent is reportedly attempting to negotiate this out clause.

But let's assume Morris can get the out clause (or else doesn't sign with them) and play with Panathinaikos until the lockout is settled. That would be a win for the Suns, and we could use one right now.

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Maybe we've done this before, maybe a month or or maybe two years ago, but hell man, we're in the midst of an ugly lockout. Do you have anything better to do?

So here is how how we'll play this game:  You take the best 5 in Suns history-go new, go old school, whatever makes you happy. But let's just say you can revive the retired, traded, or deceased, what Suns players in their prime would give the franchise the best chance at winning a title.

Here are some ideas:

  • Center:  Maybe the easiest to choose from, since the Suns haven't had many or any dominant centers. Is Gortat set to average 20/10 and become an All Star? Do you harken for the small ball with Amar'e in the middle or maybe the multi-talented yet smaller Alvin Adams? (No you can't pick Shaq in his prime), or maybe you have amnesia and thought Hot Rod Williams or Jake Tsakilidis were quality big men.
  • PF: Hard not to pick Amar'e Soutdemire. Or maybe not. What about Charles Barkley? Oooh tough one there. Chuck hit the glass better than Stat, yeah? What about Tommy Chambers? Remember Clifford Robinson? Nah, neither do I.
  • SF:  Here's where it gets fun. Shawn Marion or Grant Hill? Richard Dumas or Cedric Ceballos? Larry Nance anyone? This may be an easy one.
  • SG: Memories of JRich are in the front of our minds. But what about Dan Majerle's defense? Remember Horny Hornacek hitting from beyond the arc? Remember backcourt 2000 featuring Penny at the 2? Then there was Joe Johnson, who without the orbital fracture may have led the Suns to the promised land. You want old school, how 'bout the greyhound, Walter Davis? We loved Raja Bell, and who doesn't have a soft spot for Leandro Barbosa?
  • PG: Easy. Nash, right? But there were other greats: K.J., Jason Kidd, and don't forget D.J. (RIP) or Starbury (yeah maybe we want to forget him)

I've missed plenty of names, but that's what age and AZ Summers will do to you. help me out!

Here's a bonus for y'all. Who's coaching this All-Time Suns great squad-Do you go 7SOL with D'Antoni, do you go fundamentals with Cotton Fitzsimmons, or do you go Westphal or MacLeod? You know Jerry Colangelo coached a little in 1969, and went 24-20.

OK AND NOW THE BONUS:  whose your 6th man? Barbosa right? or maybe you go Eddie House, why not Louis Amundson? Maybe you want an ex-starter as a 6th man. How about K.J. backing up Nash?

Screw the rules here. I hate authority anyway. Have some fun with this, get creative. What style jerseys is this squad wearing? Y'all like the early 90's black roadies right? Or maybe you like the 80's purple or white. Personally I hate the everything 80's except the Talking Heads.

Special Props go for the most obscure references around. Let's see some rec's for mentions of oddities like Kidd wearing the blonde do, or Cotton with a perm, Rich Kelly starting in the middle. Get as detailed as you like. Remember, we're in this together-Suns fans, NBA fans, David Stern haters.

Marcin Gortat feels like he represents Poland every day in the United States as the only current Polish basketball player in the NBA, but he likely won’t be able to represent his country in...

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