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.
Charles Barkley as next GM?
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).
If not Charles, Who?
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.
Emphasis on Analytics
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.
What Happened with Blanks?
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.
Other Notable Stuff
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.”