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NO BUD FOR YOU; so who else is in line for the Suns’ job?

New names emerge since Budenholzer pulled out, including that of Igor Kokoskov.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Much like when that gorgeous girl shows unexpected interest in you and your nerdy love of basketball-from-afar, smiling as you talk PER and VORP, nodding sweetly when you suggest watching a playoff game together after school. At your house.

“Let me check on some things, and I’ll let you know,” she says with a smile, flashing those perfect white teeth before turning around and letting you watch her skirt sashay down the hall to her gaggle of friends.

You know from experience to turn away at that moment, before she gets to them, so you won’t see the glances back at you and giggly laughs. If you don’t see them, they didn’t happen.

You’re suddenly nervous that she might actually say yes. You start mentally inspecting the cleanliness of your house, your snarky sister, overbearing mom and annoying little brother who keeps saying the dumbest things. And then when, oh god, when dad comes home. Dad will look googly-eyed at this raven-haired bombshell on the couch with his son, scrunch his face at what you’re watching on TV, then proceed to make strangely inappropriate comments all evening in an effort to look cool to the new girl.

Chest tightens. Breath catches. /grabs inhaler and takes a puff or three.

But by the end of the school day, you’re good with it. You’ll get her up to your room to watch the damn game, and tell your dumb family to stay away. By now you’ve let it slip to all your friends that Bunny is coming over, and might even agree to be your girlfriend someday soon. The school is buzzing over this news.

Your friends are jealous and excited. Your enemies are skeptical, but impressed. This might change your ‘rep’ for good.

But then, over the loud speaker throughout the school, you hear the worst possible news. Bunny has withdrawn from consideration to be your basketball buddy. No explanation why. Just that she’s withdrawn from consideration.

Bullies laugh.

Casual onlookers say things like, “Frankly, I was surprised she’d even consider it.”

Friends try to be encouraging at first, “Hey there’re other cheerleaders and stuff, and they might be interested in hearing about your cool PERs and VORPs. Don’t settle for Tammy from economics, or that junior high girl who is stalking you to raise her own cred.

“Don’t give up! Reach for the stars!” they say.

But then there’s those OTHER friends who say, dude, why waste your time going for chicks out of your league. You’re a MESS. No good, hot girl wants to date you.

Settle for Tammy in econ, they say. She’s nice. Sure, we rip on her looks all the time, and she’s really bad at econ, let alone PERs and VORPs, but at least she tries. And she appreciates the chance to be around us.

And then there’s the other friends who are livid pissed. They are tired of being disappointed with Tammys-from-econ. They want the hot girl to date their best friend so they can enjoy the ride, and the inevitable raise in street cred they will ALL get as a result of just being around.

Such is life.

Such is the life of a Suns’ basketball fan that was duped by Mike Budenholzer’s surprising interest in coaching the hapless Suns.

For a fleeting moment, we thought we’d arrived right back at the adults table. We thought, with Bud, we wouldn’t be a laughingstock anymore. That with him in charge, the Dragan would grow his wings and breathe fire, the Book would become all-NBA, Josh Jackson would outhustle every one, and the Suns would see the playoffs as a possibility.

Within days, we’d convinced ourselves it was possible. That maybe just maybe Sarver would open the checkbook like he actually promised to do. And that the Suns would woo Bud into taking the job.

But then reality struck. Bud probably sashayed back to his pack of Buddies to tell the story, and we just didn’t see the giggles and glances back toward McD and Sarver because they’d already looked away.

So what are McD and Sarver left with?

Some not-quite-so-hot candidates.

Current head coaches

All are out of work at the moment, but were last employed as NBA head coaches in the 2017-18 season.

Frank Vogel (Magic, Pacers), David Fizdale (Grizzlies, HEAT) and Steve Clifford (Hornets) are the closest in profile to Bud - good head coaching experience, strong personalities, some playoff experience.

All of them lost their job because of either rifts with the team (Fizdale) or poor performance (Clifford, Vogel). But they’ve been successful, and coached in the playoffs.

Which is more than I can say for any of the Suns last four coaches.

Hot assistants

Two names emerged in the last few days that would more fit the mold of the Suns’ recent coaching hires. At least this way, Sarver gets the satisfaction of paying bottom dollar. So there’s that.

Igor Kokoskov hasn’t been an NBA head coach, but he has coached overseas to great success, including the country of Georgia for a few years and then taking Slovenia to a gold medal in last year’s Eurocup. Kokoskov rode the backs of former Sun Goran Dragic and potential future-Sun Luka Doncic to win a surprising gold medal.

He was lovably loyal during the “coup” when Alvin Gentry was axed midseason in January 2013. Most of Gentry’s staff quit when GM Lance Blanks promoted Lindsey Hunter from player development to the top job, but Kokoskov honored his contract and did most of the coaching (because Lindsey couldn’t) the rest of the season. Now, Kokoskov is an assistant in Utah as they try to surprise everyone and make it into the second round.

Another hot assistant who’d like take low pay to get a primo head coach job is James Borrego. Borrego is the youngest of the candidates (40 years old), has been an assistant with three organizations, but most notably is an assistant coach in San Antonio right now, under Pop.

Note: My heartfelt condolences to the Popovich family. Erin was Pop’s wife for four decades. What a terrible loss.

Former head coaches

There’s always the available former head coaches.

A name popping up now is Kevin McHale, former coach of the Rockets and Timberwolves. After three playoff years in Houston, McHale was axed early in the 2015-16 season with a 4-7 record, replaced by career-interim J.B. Bickerstaff who took the Rockers to 37-34 record. He’s been working in TV since.

Another recent name dropped is David Blatt, who was fired mid-season two years ago by Cleveland after not getting along well enough with LeBron James. Blatt later laughed at the NBA, saying he’s rather coach in a coach’s league in Europe than a players’ league in the NBA. Said he’d never go back to the NBA. Now Blatt’s name is coming up in several coaching searches this offseason so maybe he’s ready for another shot.

The Suns have apparently held informal phone conversations with each of these candidates.

New priority ranking for me, without Bud:

  1. Fizdale
  2. Clifford
  3. Vogel
  4. Kokoskov (Gogi/Doncic links)
  5. Borrego
  6. Blatt
  7. McHale

I only list Blatt and McHale at the bottom because of what likely is lukewarm interest from both sides.


Who is your next favorite, now that Bud is out of picture?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    (347 votes)
  • 5%
    (50 votes)
  • 5%
    (53 votes)
  • 39%
    (385 votes)
  • 4%
    (48 votes)
  • 3%
    (37 votes)
  • 5%
    (54 votes)
974 votes total Vote Now

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