The Phoenix Suns have not given a long term contract for their head coaching job to an experienced head coach from another team since Alvin Gentry took the full time job in 2009. Coincidentally, Alvin Gentry was the last coach to lead the Suns to the playoffs, in the 2009-2010 season.
If you only count coaches the Suns have hired who were head coaches for another NBA team in the prior season, you have to go back 45 years.
Forty. Five. Years.
Yes, it’s been since 1973 when the Suns hired Butch van Breda Koff (who only coached the team for 7 games). Before that? Red Kerr, the Suns coach for their inaugural seasons in 1968-1970.
*Housekeeping: Mike D’Antoni coached Denver two seasons before taking over the Suns. Cotton Fitzsimmons moved in the Suns front office before taking the coaching job, but was an NBA HC for 4 teams (12 years) in between his three Suns coaching stints. Terry Porter had coached the Bucks, but that was three years before taking the Suns job. Alvin Gentry had coached the Pistons and Clippers, but that was 5 years before taking over the Suns. Jay Triano had coached the Raptors, but that was 5 years before taking the Suns interim job.
So yeah, it’s been 45 years and 16 coaching hires since the Suns hired a head coach who wasn’t an assistant or front office person the year before.
This time, they appear poised to break that string.
In a big way.
The Suns have 3-4 interviews this week alone, all with coaches whose last job was actually as an NBA head coach.
First up, Mike Budenholzer. The Atlanta Hawks coach isn’t even out of a job, but has spent the last two days in Phoenix meeting with GM Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver.
Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has been meeting with Phoenix Suns management and ownership on Monday and Tuesday, and a sense is expected to emerge soon whether there is a pathway to Budenholzer becoming the Suns’ next head coach, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 18, 2018
I love the equivocation here: “...and a sense is expected to emerge soon whether there is a pathway...”
Going out on a limb there, Woj.
Woj goes on, in this story.
Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver over the two days, league sources said, after Atlanta granted him permission to meet with Phoenix late last week.
The Hawks and Budenholzer are both open to ending their partnership, but there are several hurdles that would need to be cleared before that could happen, including the Suns making an offer and agreeing to a contract and possible compensation to Atlanta.
The Hawks are just starting their rebuild, while the Suns are poised to climb out of it. Clearly, this development interests Budenholzer.
Who knows what the cost for “Coach Bud” will be, but the cost to acquire a very good long term coach is worth as much as Doc cost the Clippers (two low first round picks plus $7+ million per year).
Suns will interview former Magic coach Frank Vogel in their search for a new head coach.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) April 18, 2018
Suns are prioritizing successful NBA head coaches so will be in touch with Steve Clifford and David Fizdale about their current coaching vacancy.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) April 14, 2018
The only assistant in the mix at this time may be James Borrego.
Hearing that San Antonio Spurs assistant head coach James Borrego may be on list of candidates Suns want to interview. Has been assistant with Spurs, Hornets, Magic. Only HC experience 30 games with Magic as interim in 2014-15— scott bordow (@sbordow) April 17, 2018
Borrego is still coaching with the Spurs in the playoffs right now. He might be excused for a day or so to interview with the Suns, but then again he might be completely available by Monday the way these playoffs are going for the Spurs (down 0-2 to Golden State).
The next known interview
Sounds like former Grizzlies head coach and long time Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale comes in Wednesday, a day after Budenholzer completes his two-day visit.
The Phoenix Suns have an interview scheduled Wednesday with former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 18, 2018
The Suns are looking to fill their coaching vacancy before the NBA Draft Combine in mid-May. I assume that means the coach will have at least some of his assistants picked out, so they can begin pre-draft workouts at Talking Stick Resort Arena by late May.