Wow, I did NOT see that coming.
Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek stays on, while his top assistants for the past two-plus years have been fired. Defensive Coordinator Mike Longabardi and offensive coordinator Jerry Sichting was been let go.
Yahoo Sources: Amid turmoil, Suns fire two of Jeff Hornacek's assistant coaches. https://t.co/ZrhFbqbvM7— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 28, 2015
In the story are these tidbits from Woj.
The Suns fired top assistant, Mike Longabardi, along with Jerry Sichting on Sunday night, and Hornacek's future is teetering on the brink, league sources said.
Hornacek was adamantly against the dismissal of his staff, but appears that he'll decide to continue on the job, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Woj has had a good hook with Suns management in recent years, often having free agency and trade information before anyone else in the business.
While I said yesterday this doesn't feel like January 2013 all over again, it's beginning to feel a lot more like it.
Apparently the top candidate to replace Hornacek if he's fired is rookie assistant coach Earl Watson.
Watson joined the team last summer as a surprise addition, just recently retired from his playing days. Former players have become head coaches very quickly recently, including Derek Fisher in New York and Jason Kidd in New Jersey and later Milwaukee, so this is nothing new. But it's a striking resemblance to Lindsey Hunter just appearing on the staff one summer and taking over the head coach job less than a year later.
Former D-League head coach Nate Bjorkgren will take on a more prominent role as well, according to the report. Bjorkgren joined the Suns staff last summer after coaching their D-League affiliate Bakersfield Jam into the playoffs the season before.
Bjorkgren and Watson have spent most of the season doing skill development activities with the players, though Bjorkgren also told me that Hornacek had him and the rest of the staff involved in all aspects of coaching. The staff were reportedly very close to each other.
I'll try to figure out the machinations behind this development.
Maybe Watson and Bjorkgren and Hornacek were the only guys the consulted players liked when interviewed yesterday? Maybe the players really did come in and say "I think Longo is the problem" and "Sichting is holding us back"?
Maybe the coaching staff showed a lot of loyalty to each other, effectively canceling out Longo and Sichting as interim replacements for Hornacek if he's fired?
Or maybe the management team has already decided they want Watson to take over soon, but would prefer a stair-step approach up the ladder for a tiny bit while the Suns take on three of the toughest teams in the league this week. And maybe Hornacek is okay being that caretaker/mentor?
No matter what, the Suns are a circus. This move to fire top assistants mid-season and replace them with NBA rookies does not seem like a long-term plan.
To prove out a good decision, I always try to reverse it to see if I'd do the opposite if given the chance. Spoiler alert: You'd never want to reverse good decisions.
Let's pretend the Suns had NBA rookie coaches as Hornacek's top two assistants this season and they'd fumbled to a 12-20 start. Would it be smart to bring in veteran assistants to replace the rookies, to add more experience to the staff? Of course it would. Which makes the opposite decision - the one just enacted - a questionable move.