20120424_jla_ai4_237

The Phoenix Suns are in the midst of a very busy, very important, and an unequivocally cataclysmic period in the franchise's history. So, right on cue here come the Bright Siders to evaluate the process.

There will likely be no consensus here, partially because of the imbalance of opinions here is the reason why this staff continues to put out quality, timely, and entertaining content daily.

What do we think of the hiring of the 17th coach in franchise history? Well, we are glad you asked:

1) Be: What do you think of Jeff Hornacek as the Head Coach?

Dave King: I like the hiring from a PR standpoint and certainly from a forward-thinking standpoint. The Suns are in for a rebuild, so why not have a guy in place that everyone likes to talk to, and would be loved in the valley on name alone. He will get a long, long leash from fans and media.

Jacob Padilla: At this stage, I'm somewhat indifferent. I wasn't around to see him as a player, so don't have that attachment. I like the idea of getting back to the team's successful roots, though, and the move is getting rave reviews.

Jim Coughenour: I really like the hire. If McMiracle is an up and coming GM, then Hornacek fits the same model as a coach. People around the league are overwhelmingly effusive in their praise of his abilities and potential. If he hadn't stepped back to spend time with his family (which is another plus to me) he would have already been a head coach before now.

Kris Habbas: The idea of Hornacek as a PR move and a head coach in general is intriguing even as the announcement is fresh off the presses. He fits the need as a young coach that can connect with the soon to be young core and gives the team a personality for the fans (and media) to believe in.

Sean Sullivan: Like it. Very intelligent guy by all accounts, and I like the idea of keeping it in the family during our rebuild. Why not?

2) Should the team have brought in a coach with experience?

JP: Not necessarily. I was in favor of hiring an up-and-coming assistant rather than going with a retread. He may not have been the most qualified of those assistants, but let's give him a chance to prove himself.

JC: Head coaching experience was a non-factor, or maybe even a deterrent. Just because Jeff is a novice doesn't preclude him from excelling in his new capacity. Every head coach in the league was a first time head coach at some point.

KH: Could they have, sure, but how have retread coaches worked for the rest of the league? Charlotte, anyone? This was the right move.

SS: Our choices were limited in this regard anyway, it's not like we were going to get Doc Rivers. Horny is as good a choice as any.

DK: Head coaching experience? Probably not. We already had Alvin, who played his best guys to the detriment of player development and youth movement. The Suns need a fresh face who is patient and will learn along with the team.

3) Obviously they need to make this hire soon versus later, but was this too soon? Defend your stance?

JC: I already stated that I wanted the team to interview Hornacek. Apparently Jeff killed the interview. If the powers that be felt he was the man for the job there's no reason to let him leave and risk him taking a head coaching job with another team with a vacated position. Same dynamic with free agent players... don't let them leave without signing the contract.

KH: There are two scenarios that I am envisioning with this hire. One, Hornacek was on the short list as a Top Candidate and he absolutely killed the interview. In that case they couldn't let him go elsewhere. Two, the team was looking for a PR move that would appease the fans while impatiently hiring the first legit candidate they spoke to. Cross your fingers for Scenario One!

SS: Maybe. My only gripe is we didn't wait until after the other coaching candidates were freed up. But if Horny was their guy, I'm glad they got him.

DK: That's my only beef with this hire so soon. The Suns should have at least interviewed more people in order to make the best possible selection. They cut the process short, and so no one knows if Hornacek would have beaten everyone out.

JP: You always want to see a team do its due diligence, but if they were sold on Hornacek being the guy then I'm glad they made it official. Now they can move forward and get ready for the next step: the draft.

4) The first word that comes to mind when you think of this hire? Now, elaborate.

KH: Retro... The team tried Porter, Gentry, and Hunter before going back to the Suns Well of talent digging out Hornacek. If he can bring back the old school jersey's full-time then maybe it will be a double win for the franchise as they push forward into the future.

SS: Intelligent. Hornacek strikes me as a McDonough type of guy, whether or not he was actually his hire. I think he'll mesh well with our new GM.

DK: PR, baby! And there's nothing wrong with that. JC did it four different times - hiring a former player to help transition into a new era/team without losing the fanbase.

JP: Whoa. I was away from the Internet this weekend and just found out about it Sunday night, so it was a bit of a surprise.

JC: Circular. When Hornacek was traded to the 76ers for Charles Barkley it was bittersweet. I was both elated about the new addition and crestfallen about the subtraction (mainly Hornacek... not Tim Perry or Andrew Lang so much). Now Jeff has the chance to return and entrench himself even deeper in the Phoenix Suns' legacy. It illustrates the wisdom shown by not burning bridges (Cough! Blanks!). It will also be nice to see him back on the Suns' bench after finishing his career with the Jazz.

5) So, what are the expectations of Hornacek as a first year head coach for you?

SS: Tempered. Even Phil Jackson couldn't sniff .500 with this squad. If Horny can show some progress while giving this team an identity then I think that's all we should hope for this season.

DK: Make fans happy without having to win games. Be a pleasure to talk to, give fans signs of hope. Hornacek will get a long, long leash in the valley, something Babby has not enjoyed since he signed on.

JP: I expect to see some semblance of a gameplan on both ends (I didn't see one last year). I want to see him get his system in place and the players buying into it. Development from the young players would be nice too.

JC: I have no expectations for the upcoming season, so anything positive will be a pleasant surprise. I give McMiracle and Hornacek a hall pass for the 2013-14 season. The 2014-15 season is where I will expect to see their purview over the franchise paying dividends.

KH: There are no expectations other than progression. That should be the expectation of the entire fan-base for this upcoming season of Suns basketball. Some progression in the teams character, effort, and overall skill development will speak to the coaching abilities of Hornacek this season.

BONUS: Dan Majerle, bring him back as an assistant to get the band back together?

DK: No on Majerle. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Eddie Johnson on the sidelines.

JP: I'd love to have Thunder Dan back in the fold, but with him recently getting a new job and the circumstances of his departure, I don't think it's in the cards.

JC: I wouldn't be diametrically opposed to Majerle returning in an assistant role, but I think that bridge got Blanked and is still under repair. I don't foresee Dan bailing on his new commitment the first time the wind changes. I would surmise that Hornacek already has a good idea of who he wants to bring on (or is already in place) and that it was discussed as part of his interview.

KH: This cannot be Hornacek's team with Dan on the bench. It is that simple. Hornacek got his opportunity on his own and Dan will do the same, on his own.

SS: Nope, that ship has sailed. Go Antelopes!

20120424_jla_ai4_237

The Phoenix Suns are in the midst of a very busy, very important, and an unequivocally cataclysmic period in the franchise's history. So, right on cue here come the Bright Siders to evaluate the process.

There will likely be no consensus here, partially because of the imbalance of opinions here is the reason why this staff continues to put out quality, timely, and entertaining content daily.

What do we think of the hiring of the 17th coach in franchise history? Well, we are glad you asked:

1) Be: What do you think of Jeff Hornacek as the Head Coach?

Dave King: I like the hiring from a PR standpoint and certainly from a forward-thinking standpoint. The Suns are in for a rebuild, so why not have a guy in place that everyone likes to talk to, and would be loved in the valley on name alone. He will get a long, long leash from fans and media.

Jacob Padilla: At this stage, I'm somewhat indifferent. I wasn't around to see him as a player, so don't have that attachment. I like the idea of getting back to the team's successful roots, though, and the move is getting rave reviews.

Jim Coughenour: I really like the hire. If McMiracle is an up and coming GM, then Hornacek fits the same model as a coach. People around the league are overwhelmingly effusive in their praise of his abilities and potential. If he hadn't stepped back to spend time with his family (which is another plus to me) he would have already been a head coach before now.

Kris Habbas: The idea of Hornacek as a PR move and a head coach in general is intriguing even as the announcement is fresh off the presses. He fits the need as a young coach that can connect with the soon to be young core and gives the team a personality for the fans (and media) to believe in.

Sean Sullivan: Like it. Very intelligent guy by all accounts, and I like the idea of keeping it in the family during our rebuild. Why not?

2) Should the team have brought in a coach with experience?

JP: Not necessarily. I was in favor of hiring an up-and-coming assistant rather than going with a retread. He may not have been the most qualified of those assistants, but let's give him a chance to prove himself.

JC: Head coaching experience was a non-factor, or maybe even a deterrent. Just because Jeff is a novice doesn't preclude him from excelling in his new capacity. Every head coach in the league was a first time head coach at some point.

KH: Could they have, sure, but how have retread coaches worked for the rest of the league? Charlotte, anyone? This was the right move.

SS: Our choices were limited in this regard anyway, it's not like we were going to get Doc Rivers. Horny is as good a choice as any.

DK: Head coaching experience? Probably not. We already had Alvin, who played his best guys to the detriment of player development and youth movement. The Suns need a fresh face who is patient and will learn along with the team.

3) Obviously they need to make this hire soon versus later, but was this too soon? Defend your stance?

JC: I already stated that I wanted the team to interview Hornacek. Apparently Jeff killed the interview. If the powers that be felt he was the man for the job there's no reason to let him leave and risk him taking a head coaching job with another team with a vacated position. Same dynamic with free agent players... don't let them leave without signing the contract.

KH: There are two scenarios that I am envisioning with this hire. One, Hornacek was on the short list as a Top Candidate and he absolutely killed the interview. In that case they couldn't let him go elsewhere. Two, the team was looking for a PR move that would appease the fans while impatiently hiring the first legit candidate they spoke to. Cross your fingers for Scenario One!

SS: Maybe. My only gripe is we didn't wait until after the other coaching candidates were freed up. But if Horny was their guy, I'm glad they got him.

DK: That's my only beef with this hire so soon. The Suns should have at least interviewed more people in order to make the best possible selection. They cut the process short, and so no one knows if Hornacek would have beaten everyone out.

JP: You always want to see a team do its due diligence, but if they were sold on Hornacek being the guy then I'm glad they made it official. Now they can move forward and get ready for the next step: the draft.

4) The first word that comes to mind when you think of this hire? Now, elaborate.

KH: Retro... The team tried Porter, Gentry, and Hunter before going back to the Suns Well of talent digging out Hornacek. If he can bring back the old school jersey's full-time then maybe it will be a double win for the franchise as they push forward into the future.

SS: Intelligent. Hornacek strikes me as a McDonough type of guy, whether or not he was actually his hire. I think he'll mesh well with our new GM.

DK: PR, baby! And there's nothing wrong with that. JC did it four different times - hiring a former player to help transition into a new era/team without losing the fanbase.

JP: Whoa. I was away from the Internet this weekend and just found out about it Sunday night, so it was a bit of a surprise.

JC: Circular. When Hornacek was traded to the 76ers for Charles Barkley it was bittersweet. I was both elated about the new addition and crestfallen about the subtraction (mainly Hornacek... not Tim Perry or Andrew Lang so much). Now Jeff has the chance to return and entrench himself even deeper in the Phoenix Suns' legacy. It illustrates the wisdom shown by not burning bridges (Cough! Blanks!). It will also be nice to see him back on the Suns' bench after finishing his career with the Jazz.

5) So, what are the expectations of Hornacek as a first year head coach for you?

SS: Tempered. Even Phil Jackson couldn't sniff .500 with this squad. If Horny can show some progress while giving this team an identity then I think that's all we should hope for this season.

DK: Make fans happy without having to win games. Be a pleasure to talk to, give fans signs of hope. Hornacek will get a long, long leash in the valley, something Babby has not enjoyed since he signed on.

JP: I expect to see some semblance of a gameplan on both ends (I didn't see one last year). I want to see him get his system in place and the players buying into it. Development from the young players would be nice too.

JC: I have no expectations for the upcoming season, so anything positive will be a pleasant surprise. I give McMiracle and Hornacek a hall pass for the 2013-14 season. The 2014-15 season is where I will expect to see their purview over the franchise paying dividends.

KH: There are no expectations other than progression. That should be the expectation of the entire fan-base for this upcoming season of Suns basketball. Some progression in the teams character, effort, and overall skill development will speak to the coaching abilities of Hornacek this season.

BONUS: Dan Majerle, bring him back as an assistant to get the band back together?

DK: No on Majerle. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Eddie Johnson on the sidelines.

JP: I'd love to have Thunder Dan back in the fold, but with him recently getting a new job and the circumstances of his departure, I don't think it's in the cards.

JC: I wouldn't be diametrically opposed to Majerle returning in an assistant role, but I think that bridge got Blanked and is still under repair. I don't foresee Dan bailing on his new commitment the first time the wind changes. I would surmise that Hornacek already has a good idea of who he wants to bring on (or is already in place) and that it was discussed as part of his interview.

KH: This cannot be Hornacek's team with Dan on the bench. It is that simple. Hornacek got his opportunity on his own and Dan will do the same, on his own.

SS: Nope, that ship has sailed. Go Antelopes!

The Phoenix Suns and Jeff Hornacek have “agreed to terms” on a contract that will make the former Sun the franchise’s next head coach, according to multiple media reports. Hornacek...

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20130420_mjr_su5_194

Transcendence only comes around maybe once a decade and if you are lucky enough to be around for a truly talented generation of basketball maybe 2-3 times at the most. There are very few players or personalities that can stand-up above the game and look down on it as their playground.

Nine years ago Diana Taurasi stepped onto a WNBA court and immediately became one of the best players in the league winning MVP trophies, League Championships, and creating a legend.

Other great players have come into the league since then, but none with the star power, magnitude, and appeal of the latest No. 1 Overall pick; Brittney Griner. She has the spotlight squarely on her as she transitions from being a star at the University of Baylor to one of the most successful WNBA franchises in the past 10 years.

The pairing of Taurasi and Griner has the potential to create a new level of transcendence that has not been seen in the WNBA.

However, individual transcendence is not what the Mercury are trying to accomplish with this current group. They have the potential as a unit to be a transcendent team with the pieces in place. Last year they took Samantha Prahalis with the No. 6 overall pick and she turned out to be one of the better overall players in the entire draft class. Her emergence as a point guard is good sign for the future with her ability to make plays for others and score the ball.

She teamed up with DeWanna Bonner to form a one-two-punch that was not successful in terms of wins and losses, but was effective in the way they played together.

Bonner became a star in her own right last year controlling the offense with Sammy on the perimeter. Those two were the primary offensive weapons last season and will shift into lesser roles for the better of the team. Sammy is better suited as a play-maker with her vision and play-making ability. With the ball in her hands she will be a highlight reel in the pick-and-roll with her new 6-8 above the rim new toy, Griner.

There is no doubt that Taurasi and Griner will be the stars with Bonner and Sammy as secondary play-makers to take some of the pressure off.

Having glue around substance is essential to becoming an elite team. Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree will be the glue with their ability to score off the ball, rebound, and do all the little things on the court. Taylor has been around for a while and is coming off of injury so easing her in without the expectation of 20 points a night would be an ideal situation.

Head Coach (and General Manager) Corey Gaines did a quality job rounding out the rest of the roster with role players that know how to play a specific role.

Briana Gilbreath (defender/shooter), Krystal Thomas (rebounder/paint clogger), Alexis Hornbuckle (perimeter defender), Charde Houston (perimeter scoring), and Lynetta Kizer (floor spacing) all have a defined role that they can excel in no matter the distribution of minutes. The bench is very versatile, providing toughness, defense, shooting, and basketball factors that the starters may not exude.

This is more than a one trick pony show or a two trick pony show with the depth and flexibility they have compiled.

With this new-found depth of stars the new task for Coach Gaines will be balancing the minutes and massaging ego's to help this team reach its true potential.

He has pressure on him to make sure the team is organized, but also has to stay out of the way of this team's potential greatness. That pressure was on the Minnesota Lynx last season which led to Head Coach Cheryl Reeve playing her starters to the bone causing the team to fall just short of their true potential. That is a cautionary tale for Coach Gaines and the entire Phoenix Mercury this season.

Potential can change with the snap of a finger or the turn of an ankle, that is how sudden a fortune can change in the world of professional athletics. That is preaching to the choir to Mercury fans as misfortune took away the potential of the 2012 WNBA season, which is now nothing but a distant memory.

Just as quick as misfortune can strike, it can change for the positive.

Numbers Do Not Lie

Last season the Mercury were without 48.3 points per game from Taurasi and Taylor due to their injuries as well as 8.3 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 126 made three pointers.

They will be a welcome addition to the roster as well as with Dupree who missed 19 games due to injury.

Chasing Team History

Over the 16 year history of the team the best record they have mustered a 23-11 mark twice. They have won the WNBA Championship twice in that time, but this year they have a considerable opportunity to win a franchise record amount of games and could chase league history...

1. 27-3 Houston Comets 1998 (90%)

2/3. 28-4 LA Sparks 2000, 2001 (87.5%)

4. 28-6 Seattle Storm 2010 (82.3%)

Where will the Mercury finish?

20130227_mjm_ai4_019

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.

"And we wish Jeff all the best. Suns fans will love him. Well, they already do love him from the pre-Barkley years.

"All the best Jeff."

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