The Phoenix Suns are in the headlines once again as the team fired head coach Igor Kokoskov after his first season with the team. This move isn’t really surprising when you look at how the team played last year.
Kokoskov went 19-63 this year and the team got new management with Jeff Bower (Senior VP of Basketball Operations) and James Jones (General Manager). What’s surprising is the nature of this decision. The news came yesterday at 9:50 PM, two weeks after the season ended.
Now, to be fair to the Suns, this shouldn’t be a decision a team rushes and makes on a whim. Getting a new front office and letting them make up their mind on a coach should take time. Also, with how much talent the Suns had last year, 19 wins is unacceptable, and if the Suns don’t think Kokoskov is the right guy, why give him another season? However, that good will can disappear when it comes to bad teams, ones that have a tendency to make rash decisions.
Kokoskov will be the fourth head coach fired by the Suns since the 2015-16 season. Think about that for a second, Devin Booker will be on his fifth NBA head coach next season. The Suns let go of Ryan McDonough right before the regular season last year, after letting him decide its first overall pick and who to sign in free agency. This is another quick trigger.
While the Suns had talent last year, there were also glaring holes that would hurt any coach, much less a first year NBA head coach. The lack of decent point guard play before Tyler Johnson’s arrival hurt everyone on the Suns and the signing of Trevor Ariza, who was supposed give the Suns another veteran presence on the court, was a massive miss. Kokoskov had his faults, but the team also had faults, and that lies at the feet of the one person who’s been running the Suns since 2004, owner Robert Sarver.
Sarver wants this team to win but his meddling into team decisions has hurt the Suns and his willingness to cut coaches and executives quickly has left the Suns in a bad light. According to Wojnarowksi, the Suns are targeting Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams for the job but he’s also in talks with the Lakers for its vacant position. Even if the Suns were the only game in town, considering how Sarver has cut coaches and executives recently, why would anyone go there?
A chance to be a NBA head coach is a dream many have, but when you just saw a rookie head coach get fired after his first season with the team, why would you want go to that mess? As great as the Suns young core could be, the threat of being cut loose after one miserable season working with those young bucks might not be worth it.
Last year, David Fitzdale and Mike Budenholzer both rejected the Suns and we don’t know how many other coaches passed this team up. David Joerger is a name that Suns fans have clamored for recently after he got fired by the Kings, but he got fired twice for having issues with the front office. Why would he come to this team and its owner? The Suns’ past failures and mistakes haunt them and with that, it’s tough to give the Suns any room for goodwill or trust them to make the right call.
The Suns have been a laughing stock in the NBA and it’s because of decisions like this. However justified it might be, the Suns don’t have the trust of the league or the fans to make these decisions without it looking rash. The team’s failure to attract top free agents and top coaches line up with their failures as an organization. The Suns haven’t hired a head coach since Alvin Gentry that had previous head coaching experience.
Before he hires a new head coach, Sarver should perhaps look back at his decisions with the Suns and think about how he could improve as an owner. I know he wants to win, but look at how some of the best franchises in the NBA are run like the Warriors, the Spurs and the Celtics. Those teams’ owners don’t get involved often and they allow the people they hired to run their team.
It’s easier said than done when the top guys are running those teams but perhaps by allowing the coaches and executives to grow instead of firing them early, you potentially get the next Bob Myers or Gregg Popovich. Patience isn’t something practiced in sports often, but Sarver ought to give his front office and coach more of it than usual.