In an attempt to reset the stage for the Phoenix Suns coaching search, we have to once again remind ourselves that ... and this is no offense to current interim coach Jay Triano, who is still under contract through the end of the league year (June 30) ... remind ourselves that it’s really all about getting the RIGHT coach, not necessarily the one with the best resume coming in.
I am as disappointed as anyone that now-former Atlanta Hawks Mike Budenholzer just simply pulled his name from consideration for the Suns coaching job after several conversations with Robert Sarver and Ryan McDonough.
The only thing we think we know about the talks are that they never even got to salary, and never got to possible compensation back to the Hawks because Budenholzer was still under contract for two more seasons. A week later, Budenholzer and the Hawks have agreed to separate, so compensation is unnecessary anyway.
If money wasn’t even on the table yet, and it seems unconscionable that either side was uncomfortable about roster shakeup, then it stands to reason that Budenholzer, Sarver and McDonough just could not get on the same page about something else — control over roster decisions, maybe? Or the amount of money that the organization would be willing to spend on the coaching staff, acquiring stars, etc.?
Who knows exactly what made Bud decide the KNICKS and JAMES DOLAN might be a better fit for him, as he pulled out of Suns’ consideration to publicly turn his attention to New York.
After the Knicks culture has chewed up and spit out everyone who’s come to town for the past decade plus, you have to wonder about the lure of KNICKS ownership and management makes them a better option than Suns?
Could be about money. If nothing else, Dolan spends it on coaches. Derek Fisher got $5 million per year without a shred of previous coaching experience. Steve Kerr was offered the same. And so was Jeff Hornacek. If those guys got $5 million, it stands to reason the Knicks would be willing to break the bank for Coach Bud, who is coming off $7 million per year with the Hawks.
The Suns, on the other hand, haven’t paid over $3 million per year for a coach since Mike D’Antoni. And that was a decade ago. They’ve said they’ll pay market price this time to get the best coach, but those words ring hollow until they actually do it.
Could be about personnel control. Maybe the Knicks are offering more control over the roster — and by extension the salary expenditure — than the Suns want to offer. McDonough still has the stones, and the backing of Sarver, to likely relinquish any requirement to control roster decisions. But given that the Suns have the league’s worst team after FIVE YEARS of roster building, Budenholzer has a right to be skeptical about McD’s ability to improve.
Or, it could just be about the Suns not having a real plan. McDonough has said many times that the Suns’ summer would be partially shaped by the kind of coach they get, and the results of the lottery draw. To some, that means flexibility. But others, that means indecision and lack of vision.
We don’t know exactly what went wrong with Bud and the Suns. All we know is that now the Suns have interviewed — either in person or on the phone — 8-10 other candidates of varying head coaching experience.
And what worries Suns fans is that the latest names to surface — Jason Kidd, Vinny Del Negro and a number of long-time assistants — are much more tepid than the original grouping of Budenholzer, David Fizdale and Steve Clifford.
I don’t mind the Suns talking to as many candidates as possible. As someone who interviews a lot of people for a lot of different positions, I LOVE talking to a wide range of candidates of varying experience and likelihood to get the job. Why? Because I learn so much about what people think of my job opening, and what they would do with the job if they got it.
And frankly, we all need to take a breath.
It’s still only April 26 — just two weeks since the end of the Suns’ awful 21-61 season — and three weeks away from anything you probably want a coach in place for: the NBA Combine, followed by a series of on-site pre-draft workouts with prospects for the Suns picks — Top-4, plus #16 and #31 overall.
The Suns will soon reportedly narrow down the list of possible coaches from the initial 9 or 10 to a much shorter list for a second round of talks.
Also not to be ignored is the timing around the rest of the NBA. While It’s cool to make a decision quickly — and would have been perfect for a coach like Budenholzer — why not not to see who gets fired after making the playoffs?
There’s already speculation that Terry Stotts might be let go from Portland after they got unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by none other than the Pelicans.
And we know that the Bucks’ job will eventually open up, but not until they are ousted from the playoffs. I’d expect that most of the best candidates will at least want to talk to the Bucks before taking another job, starting with Fizdale.
Could any other jobs open up, which also makes playoff-tested coaches available to the Suns? How secure is Scott Brooks in Washington? Or Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City?
As well, it could be that the best coaching candidates are waiting to let the whole landscape settle over the next two weeks before making any commitment to non-playoff caliber teams.
In addition to possible teams like Portland, Milwaukee and Washington, could Tyronn Lue leave the Cavs after having to take a break mid-season due to stress-related health issues? Could 71 year old Gregg Popovich walk away from coaching after the Spurs for a number of reasons all piling up at once, opening up the coveted San Antonio job?
Take a breath, Suns’ fans.
Could be a little while, if the Suns really DO want to get the best possible coach rather than settle for an up-and-coming coach who will accept the first head coaching job offered to them.