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Phoenix Suns clinch just 6th losing season in last 27 years

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

With a loss to the Spurs last night, the Phoenix Suns have guaranteed a losing season with their 42nd loss against 39 wins. Suns fans are choking on the bile.

While the Phoenix Suns have never won an NBA championship, they still have the league's 4th highest winning percentage (.552), averaging a 45-37 record since their inception in 1968.

The team has experienced a losing season such as this one only 6 times in the last 27 years. That means 21 times, fans have been able to cheer on a winning basketball team.

Except lately. Fans in the Valley are so used to winning they take it for granted, but 3 of those losing seasons have happened in the last 5 years, starting immediately after the 2009-10 Western Conference Finals run.

How rare is a losing record in the Valley? How about this being the team's longest drought of consecutive winning seasons since way back in 2006.

Wait, what?

While fans of the Suns feel entitled to a winning season year after year, the fact is that the Suns have failed to post consecutive winning seasons during several long stretches in their franchise history.

2011-2015 (bad)

The latest losing stretch in franchise history.

The records:

  • 40-42
  • 33-33
  • 25-57
  • 48-34
  • 39-42 (one game left to play)

Five seasons. At least two roster overhauls. One winning season. No playoff appearances.

2005-2010 (good)

The second greatest stretch in franchise history, boasting six straight winning seasons, all playoff seasons, including three Conference Finals.

Orchestrated by GM Bryan Colangelo, who left for greener pastures in Toronto after setting up the core of the team.

1996-2004 (bad-ish)

This stretch of 9 seasons, where the Suns post winning records only 5 times in the 9 years, saw the Suns go through no less than three different complete rebuilds that each flamed out so quickly the Suns had to have a near full-roster turnover each time.

Sure the Suns had a four-year stretch of winning records in there, but bookended that with five years of average to below-average basketball.

This stretch started with coach Paul Westphal, Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Danny Manning in an uninspired season punctuated by the replacement of coach Paul Westphal with Cotton Fitzsimmons. Sure, it didn't help that Danny Manning started the year on the injured list, but Barkley, KJ and others just didn't get the job done as they were saddled with a hangover of killer losses playoff losses.

It was an ugly come-down from the near-top of the NBA heap that lasted 9 years until little Stevie Nash came to town.

Here's the records:

  • 41-41
  • 40-42
  • 56-26
  • 27-23 (lockout)
  • 53-29
  • 51-31
  • 36-46
  • 44-38
  • 29-53

Nine years. At least six roster overhauls, engineered by GM Bryan Colangelo. Two playoff misses. Six first round exits. One second-round exit. No conference finals.

The Suns core went from Barkley/KJ/Manning to Horry/Cassell/Finley to Kidd/KJ/Chapman to Kidd/KJ/McDyess to Kidd/Robinson/Hardaway/Gugliotta to Kidd/Marion/Robinson to Marbury/Marion/Hardaway to Marbury/Marion/Stoudemire to Johnson/Marion/Stoudemire.

It was Robert Horry and Sam Cassell, then it wasn't. Then it was Jason Kidd, and then it wasn't. There was Anfernee Hardaway. There was Antonio McDyess. Tom Gugliotta. Cliff Robinson. Stephon Marbury.

All core players. All turned over in short order. Jason Kidd has the longest run of any of these guys, but his domestic violence charge spurred the switch to Starbury.

To stop the bleeding, the Suns signed an under-athletic Canadian point guard who went on to become a two-time league MVP.

1989-1995 (great!)

The KJ/Hornacek and KJ/Barkley years. Seven years, seven playoff appearances, including three Conference Finals and one NBA Finals.

1984-1988 (bad)

Another dark period in franchise history without a winning record for five consecutive years.

These were punctuated by the drug scandal years but began as simply as non-winning core of players, put together by GM Jerry Colangelo. Luminaries such as Sweet D Walter Davis and high-flying Larry Nance were not enough to keep the team afloat.

The records:

  • 41-41
  • 36-46
  • 32-50
  • 36-46
  • 28-54

Five years. One major roster overhaul. No winning seasons. Three playoff misses. Two first round exits.

The Suns came out of his malaise with a bang, acquiring Kevin Johnson, drafting Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle and signing Tom Chambers to start a string of eight straight winning seasons.

In the meantime, long time GM Jerry Colangelo became owner/GM Jerry Colangelo and pulled the Phoenix so ar out of the ashes most fans forgot he's the one who torched it in the first place.

1978-1983 (good)

Six straight winning seasons, all with playoffs. Two first round exits. Three second-round exits. One conference finals.

1969-1977 (bad)

The fitful inception of the Phoenix Suns franchise had three winning seasons, two playoff appearances, including one NBA Finals appearance in 1976.

As you would expect, the fledgling Suns had a lot of unsustainable success as they tried to get a foothold on their NBA profile.

Nine years. Three winning seasons. One second-round exit. One "Where did that come from?" NBA Finals appearance.


Looks to me like a lot of ups and downs over the course of the franchise history.

The only remaining question is how long this current stretch of losing will last.

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