I can concede that the final report card on McDonough’s tenure with the Phoenix Suns is still an incomplete.
The development of his slew of first round picks will likely be the deciding factor in the final analysis. I’m not too bullish on the totality of that group, but I can admit it’s too early to pass judgment.
But the five year rebuild under his purview has just stretched a little too long and has been a little too embarrassing for my palette.
With the firing of Earl Watson this week, a coach who was clearly not qualified for the job - a coach hired by McDonough, and a stylist malfunction tweet from the team’s best player, Eric Bledsoe, trying to renegotiate his contract/demand a trade... Ryan McDonough has had another bad week.
A week that once again calls into question his qualifications to be the person in charge of resurrecting Phoenix from the choking miasma of the team’s current losing culture.
With Watson gone, three games into the season as opposed to over the summer, McDonough is on his third head coach since arriving in Phoenix... he will likely be hiring a fourth this summer (unless semantically one wants to argue that Triano doesn’t count since he’s an interim... for 79 games).
If he’s around to do so.
McDonough also looks to move on to his next “face of the franchise.”
He’s had several... Eric Bledsoe being the most recent.
Here’s what McDonough had to say about his former golden boy.
“I think he's unfortunately gotten some bad advice and is listening to the wrong people. I think generally, any time you sign a contract, it doesn't only work one way. It works both ways, and for a guy with years on his contract to say or intimate he didn't want to be here anymore, I didn't find that to be appropriate, and I think if he says he wants to be a leader, that's the opposite of what a leader does and the opposite of what leadership is.”
Bledsoe has been quiet since his ill-advised “I Don’t wanna be here” tweet, but Ryan’s comments are consistent with his pattern of taking shots at players through the media.
Is McDonough right?
Should he be trying to publicly shame his players?
Trading Isaiah Thomas was a mistake, McDonough has admitted as much, but so was signing him in the first place.
The addition of Thomas was the gas eventually used to burn the bridge between the Suns and Goran Dagic.
Thomas was signed as insurance during the summer of Rich Paul, as the Suns were in limbo in contract negotiations with Eric Bledsoe... but Thomas was quite frank about his desire to be the starting point guard... the third starting point guard on the roster.
Three did not turn out to be company.
The success of DragonBlade crumbled into the dysfunction of the Hydra... a plan that might have worked in functionality, but not when the human element was factored in.
This resulted in the Dragic, “I don’t trust them” trade demand and a rapid fire series of trades that netted the Suns Brandon Knight and dispossessed them of the Lakers unprotected 2018 first round pick.
After hearing people lamenting that the Suns traded their best player (Dragic), McDonough retorted, "Our response to that, I think, is that Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris are still in Phoenix Suns’ uniforms."
Eric Bledsoe, whose summer contract negotiation had caused so much tumult... and who is once again engaging in dishonorable tactics (but once again, was McDonough’s professed guy... the one he chose over Dragic and IT) won’t be in a Suns uniform much longer.
McDonough also had high praise for Brandon Knight at that time... "We feel like we got the best player in the trade, coming or going."
He then proceeded to sign Knight to a 5 year, $70 million dollar deal. Knight played so poorly he became mostly untradeable. Then he got injured and is completely immovable.
I feel like the Suns probably didn’t get the best player in the trade after all.
We all know how the Markieff Morris saga played out.
Our own Dave King fabulously chronicled how the Morris brothers insulted and/or assaulted all of the following during his time as a Sun in his Timeline of Destruction series.
- an opposing player
- the referees
- their own coach
- the media
- (allegedly) a former mentor
- all the fans who paid less than a grand for their seat
- the Suns front office
- bandwagon fans
- the judge presiding over their case
- their entire Suns experience
- their agent
- the Suns front office, again
- the Suns fans, again
- Markieff's coaching staff... again
- his own “little brother” Archie Goodwin
Those were good times.
Entering Markieff’s final season pretty much everyone foresaw that keeping him around was a bad idea.
Everyone but Ryan McDonough.
Of course Markieff continued to be what he already showed he was (when someone shows you who they are, believe them) and the season imploded.
The final feel good moment in this improbable sequence of events was Markieff being named the “team leader” after Watson was instituted as the new coach.
At least the ruse allowed McDonough to salvage a first round pick, but at what expense to the team’s public perception and team morale? Ryan McDonough seems unable to see impending disasters that unravel one season after another.
So from Dragic to Thomas to Markieff to Bledsoe, Ryan McDonough has run all of his “best players” out of town... often while making sideways remarks.
Given McDonough’s track record with his “best players”, doesn’t it seem possible that Devin Booker will follow suit at some point?
Given this knowledge, should McDonough be trusted with handling the Suns next hopeful franchise player?
McDonough has run off all of his high profile players, with none of them leaving the Suns on good terms. It’s always some form of embarrassing public display. The Suns have made an art form out of airing dirty laundry.
So is it everybody else?
Or is it McDonough?
McDonough has flat out failed to manage personalities during his tenure and this last episode with Eric Bledsoe shows he has failed to learn from his mistakes.
Looking at the totality of sketchy trades, hazy draft picks, disgruntled players and the damage that has been done to the team’s reputation since McDonough’s arrival the ice should be getting pretty thin.
I could go on, so feel free to add in your favorite warm and fuzzy McDonough moments in the comments... and given that Bright Side of the Sun is a solutions oriented community...
Here’s the way I would like to see this situation handled... since #SarverOut isn’t going to happen.
Ryan McDonough should be on the hot seat and working the rest of the season at keeping his job. He should be under heavy scrutiny and Sarver should be giving serious consideration to the potential of hiring a new GM at the end of the season. Not right now. Next summer would be the best time for a change.
If he pulls the trigger, and based on what I see right now I would, Sarver should go for a splash hiring.
Someone like the Oklahoma City Thunder Vice President and Assistant GM Troy Weaver... or maybe a former player like Grant Hill or Charles Barkley.
Someone that can manage personalities. Someone who won’t chase off players or get the franchise entangled in so many imbroglios (so maybe not Barkley...).
He should spend money.
Sarver has typically been in the lower part of the league in basketball personnel spending since he bought the team. He has generally went with inexperienced and inexpensive alternatives to the big splash types of hires.
He should be prepared to make his new GM one of the highest paid in the league if needed... it’s time to invest in the front office.
Then that GM should be given plenipotentiary power to make any and all basketball related decisions. Sarver should become a fly on the wall. He has shown that him being inserted into the situation doesn’t work. He needs to learn that lesson.
That GM should also be given a handsome budget to go pursue his new head coach.
Whether it’s to trying to lure Brent Barry from the broadcast booth or show Steve Nash/Dan Majerle the Suns love him again... it’s time to invest in coaching.
These are the types of “credibility” hirings that can help turn around the perception of the franchise in a hurry.
Even if McDonough did turn out to be a draft savant, time will tell, there’s no reason why a new GM can’t win with his players. A new GM that doesn’t proliferate the internecine conflicts that have been pervasive during the McDonough era.
Bob Myers, the Warriors current GM, wasn’t in Golden St. when Stephen Curry was drafted. Steve Kerr wasn’t head coach until their roster was basically a finished product.
Even Sam Hinkie, the Sixers former GM, didn’t survive his tank job and now Bryan Colangelo gets the benefit of building upon the young talented roster he left behind.
It happens. So hopefully, in this scenario, McDonough did draft well. It should make life easy for his successor.
Executives/coaches in professional sports tend to have a shelf life and McDonough’s might just be up.
I’ve reached my boiling point with the soap opera nature of the Suns over the last several years.
The best way to cleanse the franchise might just be a fresh start next summer.