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As the coaching carousel turns: Hornacek to NY, Triano to Phoenix Suns

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

One of the nicest guys in the NBA comes to dysfunctional Phoenix as another one finds a new home in dysfunctional New York.

Former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has reportedly been tabbed to take over the New York Knicks as head coach under the watchful eye one of the greatest, most egotistical coaches in the history of the NBA in Phil Jackson. What could possibly go wrong?

At the same time, Suns coach Earl Watson has tabbed Portland assistant Jay Triano as his new Associate Head Coach. Triano is probably the best assistant coach the Suns have had in a long time, easily more experienced and talented than anyone Hornacek had at his side. Triano, a Canadian treasure and Steve Nash confidant, once coached the Toronto Raptors for three seasons before joining the Trail Blazers for the last four seasons. He also coaches the talented Canadian Men's Basketball Team.

Knicks get Horny

First reported by Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. Beck is a long time NY reporter.

Leave it to NY right?

But at least we still have Scott Howard.

What's good for Hornacek is that he will likely more than double his pay in a high-profile new job that begins even before his last one stops producing paychecks.

What's bad for Hornacek is that he's less likely to coach out his Knicks contract than he was to coach out his Suns one. But then again, Hornacek has such a calm outlook on life that while his hair might finally turn grayer than mine in the next two years, he will ride off into the NY sunset in 2-3 years with a smile on his face just as he did when he left Phoenix.

It's interesting that a Suns coach whose fans and front office turned on him as fast as the losses piled up was considered and/or interviewed for no less than five NBA head coaching openings (Washington, Indiana, Memphis, Sacramento, New York) in the past month and has been offered a plumb job even before his paychecks stopped coming from the Suns.

But hey, the fans didn't like Hornacek's rotations, or his laid-back attitude, so he must have sucked right? And he smiled too much. And he never reached some petulant, self-indulgent players so of course that was his fault.

It appears NBA teams might view Hornacek through a different lens than the casual Suns fan.

Good for you, Jeff.

Suns get Triano

Meanwhile, back on Dysfunctional Ranch, Suns head coach Earl Watson has finally (relative term, considering it's only mid-May) tabbed his lead assistant to help him grow into being a full time head coach.

Enter one of the nicest guys in the NBA, Jay Triano, as Watson's Associate Head Coach.

Triano takes over the seat held warm by another former coach of Watson's, Bob Hill. The 72-year old Hill had been out of the NBA for nine years before Watson asked him to come to Phoenix as a trusted advisor when he took over on February 1.

Now, Watson has hired arguably the best (and likely most expensive) assistant coach the Suns have had on staff in many years. The Suns have developed a reputation over the last decade-plus of hiring the under-experienced and under-paid, and have suffered for it.

Now, they have Triano. Here's his resume:

  • Head Coach Simon Fraser University (Canada) 1988-1995
  • Director of Community Relations, Vancouver Grizzlies 1995-2002
  • Head Coach Canadian Men's Basketball Team, twice (1998-2004, 2012-current under GM Steve Nash)
  • Assistant Coach Toronto Raptors 2002-2008
  • Head Coach Toronto Raptors 2008-2011
  • Assistant Coach Portland Trailblazers 2012-2016

His Raptors coaching stint was not successful, but the roster that was provided to him wasn't exactly good. He had Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani as his best players for his first two seasons, but the rest of the roster was a poo-poo platter. When Bosh left for Miami, the Raptors went into the gutter.

His Raptors teams had good offensive ratings, but terrible defensive ratings. I guess when Bargnani is your starting center and Jose Calderon is your starting point guard, you're going to have problems in that area.

With Portland, Triano was a lead assistant for a coaching staff that took two distinctly different rosters to the playoffs in the last three years. The Blazers have had a solid defense and a solid offense the entire time, and head coach Terry Stotts was finally recognized this season for it, finishing second in the COY votes. It's never obvious how much influence an assistant coach has on a team, so we can't draw any conclusions there.

Where we can draw conclusions is to say that Triano is one of the better people in the NBA. He's a long time friend and mentor for Steve Nash - all the way back to Steve's high days as he considered where to go to college. It was reportedly Triano who suggested Nash go to Santa Clara over his own Simon Fraser program for a better chance at making the NBA. Nash later re-instated Triano as coach of the Canadian team when he took over GM duties.

Here are a couple of articles giving small examples of Triano being the ultimate good guy. In one case, he paid a family's nuisance fine for putting a basketball hoop outside their house, and in another instance he bought someone's lunch after learning he was having a really bad day.

Anyone who's a friend of Steve Nash is a friend of the Valley, as far as I'm concerned. Welcome to the southern part of the continent, Jay Triano!

Watson's staff

Watson's coaching and player development staffs still need a bit of fleshing out, but at least his top two assistants are on board. Nate Bjorkgren remains on the staff as a high energy coach who is great with players and practices and skill development.

Watson still needs another assistant or two, hopefully a defense-oriented guru who can cobble together this Suns team that likely will feature a lot of youth around Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe.

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