There were other factors at play, of course, but you cannot deny that the Suns owner Robert Sarver’s pattern of coach firings based on recent won-loss streaks.
Ever since Mike D’Antoni left of his own accord in 2008, every full time coach of the Suns has been fired mid-season in a reactionary move to recent losses.
Alvin Gentry (January 2013 — 13-28 record)
The Suns were an abysmal 13-28 in the first half-season after Steve Nash was traded to the Lakers for future first round picks when Gentry was suddenly fired/quit on a Wednesday night immediately following their 28th loss in 41 games.
I’ll never forget Luis Scola, one of the prized offseason acquisitions, sitting night after night at his locker, slumped shoulders, shaking head, wondering how the heck they could be such a bad basketball team. That was a few lockers away from Michael Beasley claiming he “shot great, the ball just didn’t go in” after a 2-19 night from the field.
Proof that it was a knee-jerk decision by the owner in the wake of an ugly loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at home, capping off 13 losses in 15 games, was that the Suns had zero plan to move forward.
GM Lance Blanks openly conducted job interviews with all the assistants over the next three off days, and eventually hired the least qualified (Lindsey Hunter), prompting two of the other three top assistants to quit too.
The only assistant who stayed through the end of the season? Igor Kokoskov.
Jeff Hornacek (January 2016 — 14-35 record)
After being hired in the summer of 2013, and coming in second place in the Coach of the Year award voting for the 2013-14 season, Hornacek fell on hard times in his third season.
By that time, he’d lost the players’ ears and finally lost the front office’s confidence. They weirdly talked Hornacek into firing his top assistants first (Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi), but then eventually fired Horny too.
Longabardi immediately joined the Cavaliers for a couple of NBA Finals runs as their defensive coordinator with Tyronn Lue, while Sichting and most of Hornacek’s staff joined him in New York when he was hired a few months later to babysit that franchise for a bit.
Proof that it was a knee jerk decision based on won-loss record, the Suns just couldn’t stomach Hornacek anymore after losing 19 of his last 21 games.
Interestingly enough, the Suns were coming off 48-34 and 39-43 full seasons, and even started the 2015-16 season as good as 12-16 through December 18 — just six weeks before he was fired!
But then the wheels came off. The assistants were fired less than two weeks into the tailspin, while Hornacek twisted in the wind — with a promoted Earl Watson at his side — for another month.
One and a half seasons after coming in second for Coach of the Year, Hornacek was fired in the wake of 19 losses in 21 games.
Earl Watson (October 2017 — 0-3 record)
The Suns’ next full-time coach got a long honeymoon period of 1.5 seasons with no tabs on his won-loss record — he went 33-82 over 115 games as head coach — until the kick off of the 2017-18 season.
As the 2017-18 season was about to open, despite five of the 10 rotation players being 21 or younger and only one in-his-prime player among the 10 (Eric Bledsoe), managing partner Robert Sarver went on local radio to proclaim the team should contend for a playoff spot.
They lost by 48 points, at home, two hours later. And then by 42 points three days later. Watson was fired less than 24 hours after that.
Watson and point guard Eric Bledsoe were both repped by the same sports agent Klutch Sports/Rich Paul/LeBron James. Rumors came out later that the Suns and Klutch had developed a bad relationship and Suns brass wanted nothing more to do with them.
Earl Watson, once loved by the Suns front office/owner and handed the full time job in spring 2016 without even an interview process, was out of a job.
Unlike Gentry and Hornacek, Watson has not worked in the NBA since, let alone gotten another head coaching opportunity.
John Gambadoro said on the Burns and Gambo radio show on Monday that, if the Suns lost the road game against the 26-31 Miami Heat, the Suns were seriously thinking about firing head coach Igor Kokoskov after the game.
Kokoskov is only in his first season coaching the team, a team that boasts only one legit NBA player in his prime (T.J. Warren), no legitimate point guard to run a cohesive offense, and a 20 year old center to back-line a defense.
Yet, with a 11-50 record, the Suns owner’s patience appears to be running thin again.
The fact (or rumor, I guess) that Kokoskov might be fired after the outcome of a particular game is disappointing, yet par for the course.
Each of Gentry, Hornacek and Watson were fired under the same circumstances, so why not Kokoskov too? If so, that would four straight full-time head coaches fired mid-season for a losing streak after less than three years at the helm.
Who cares that Kokoskov has been given the NBA’s least likely roster to win a game? Who cares that the Suns have been playing the league’s most brutal schedule to date? Who cares that the team’s two best players have missed significant chunks of the season to injuries?
Someone has to be the scapegoat so the Suns’ front office/ownership can point the finger at someone other than themselves.
If you’re going to fire a coach, do it without emotion, Base it only on the whole body of evidence.
If you believe Igor should be fired, DON’T DO IT BASED ON AN INDIVIDUAL GAME OUTCOME.
And when Kokoskov’s team actually DID win on Monday night, it appears that he was spared from the axe for at least a little bit longer.
I don’t ultimately care if Kokoskov is fired or not at some point. I care that once again the Suns brass is doing it based on the recent play of the team.
Firing Gentry, Hornacek and Watson for those same reasons did NOT work. Isn’t doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result the definition of insanity?
The shoe fits. Wear it, Suns.