With the report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that the Phoenix Suns management is meeting with players today to discuss the future of coach Jeff Hornacek, you realize that management has decided no matter what happens they need the players to finally buy back in.
Yahoo Sources: Suns management holds individual meetings with players and staff to probe problems. https://t.co/ZrhFbqbvM7— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 27, 2015
This sounds somewhat familiar to January of 2013, when the Suns and Alvin Gentry "mutually agreed" to part ways after the Suns suffered a particularly ugly loss and fell to 13-28 on the season. The Suns spent the weekend interviewing players and coaches to decide on the next coach, eventually naming rookie Lindsey Hunter while losing most of Gentry's staff in the process.
The big problem in 2013 was that management failed to involve players and assistant coaches until after Gentry was fired, and then hired the one guy that no one on the team or staff ever suggested they recommended.
I've been in management for many years. I've been through some easy as well as some very difficult personnel changes.
The best outcomes of the most difficult changes have been after engaging and including the affected staff in the decision all along. Especially before it happens. If handled well, the staff (in this case, players and assistant coaches) will feel involved, and likely more engaged for the rest of the season no matter what happens. Even if their suggestion isn't the one chosen, it's at least got to be one that makes sense and has the general support of everyone involved.
Hornacek seems to have lost some of the players' trust. Each has taken turns in and out of the rotation for one reason or another. None are exclusively "his guy", which means he's really not "their guy" either. You don't run through a wall for a guy who won't run through the wall for you.
If Hornacek stays on, the players will have been a part of that decision and will buy back into what he's teaching.
If Hornacek leaves, the same is true. And the players will be invested in that decision, and will likely have pledged some sort of extra effort to support his replacement.
Not that all players and coaches will agree on the same change. Some will be loyal to the coach. Some will want a change. Most will likely point some other problem entirely, such as the execution of play calls by the players and the effort they are putting out as a group.
And this sentiment of needing more consistent effort will likely come from many players themselves. Good NBA players don't think it's coaching that wins games, but rather how well they themselves play. So Suns management likely won't hear a ton of hate toward Hornacek.
But if the players don't think he's answer to turning around a bad season, either, then that's bad news for Hornacek too.
And that might prompt change.
Stop thinking about big names, folks. Big names don't often take over struggling teams mid-season. George Karl last year was an exception in Sacramento. He'd been already out of coaching for a year and was itching to get back. Available coaches such as Scott Brooks or Tom Thibodeau won't want to walk into a sticky situation like this with games almost every day nearly killing all potential practice time to make changes in scheme.
No, if there is a change in coach, it will be almost certainly a member of the current coaching staff who will resolve to keep the same scheme while trying to get better execution from the players, and make better rotation decisions and in-game play calling.
Mike Longabardi (defense) or Jerry Sichting (offense) are the most likely candidates to step into Hornacek's shoes if he's fired.
The problem I see with this scenario is that both are very loyal and, by all accounts, completely in Hornacek's corner. And this isn't the same management team that botched the coach hiring to replace Alvin Gentry in January 2013. Back then, loyal assistants quit as they were bypassed for Lindsey Hunter.
This time, you can bet that a move to Longo or Sichting would only happen with their own blessing as well as that of the players.
That's what these meetings today are likely about. It's a feeling out with players and coaches to get to the root of the problems, and decide if it makes sense to hand the reins to someone else at this point.
Welcome to the NBA!