clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Center of the Sun: Suns again search for a new head coach as they prep for the offseason

Will they hire an experienced head coach or again bring in an untried assistant?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of deja vu? If you are a Suns fan, of course you have.

Well, here we are again looking for another new head coach following another terrible season. Since the 2019-20 season doesn’t actually begin until July 1 and the Suns should have their new coach in place well before then, that will technically make the new hire Devin Booker’s 5th head coach in just four seasons.

Think about that for a few seconds.

Look at how good Booker has become without a stable environment, with all the different coaches and all the different offensive and defensive schemes he’s been subjected to in his first four years in the league. It’s a testament to his own talent and determination to succeed but I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t be even better now without all the turmoil and turnover he’s had to deal with.

The Suns need to make the right hire this time. It would be great if they could find that coach that will be the answer to all their problems and eventually lead them back to championship contention but that’s not likely. What I’m hoping for now is at least a solid head coach that can connect with the players and lead them back to respectability. A home run would be great but a good hire that will lead to progress and some future stability would seem to be a reasonable expectation. At least I hope it is.

This year, only three names have come up as serious candidates so far - Monty Williams, Nate Tibbitts and David Vanterpool. If memory serves me, there were a dozen or so last year. I honestly don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing but at least it’s different. Anything different is at least a little bit encouraging when you’re starting to feel as though you’re stuck in and endless time loop. Of course, things aren’t exactly the same as they were this time last year so perhaps there’s still some hope to break this cycle.

Unlike last year, I’m not particularly thrilled at the thought of any of the known candidates becoming the Suns’ new head coach. Not that I have anything against any of them. It’s just that none of them jump out at me as “the guy”.

Monty Williams at least has five years of head coaching experience. His career record as a head coach is 173-221 (.429). Not exactly awe inspiring but if you take a close look at some of the rosters he had over those five years then it actually looks better. There were some pretty good ones but he - like the Suns lately - had injury issues during his worst seasons as HC. I wouldn’t be upset if they hired Williams, just not thrilled.

Tibbitts and Vanterpool... well, I really know little about them other than they’re both assistant coaches with Portland and have no previous NBA head coaching experience. A lot of fans don’t want another inexperienced head coach but it may come down to that... again.

Whoever the Suns select, hopefully they can at least give him a roster that will be constructed better than last season’s was. James Jones and Jeff Bower have a lot of work ahead of them this summer to fill the glaring holes the roster had last year.

At a recent presser, Jones gave us the basic concept of his plan for the offseason.

That’s pretty vague but at least it sounds as though the days of overpaid, aging veteran ‘mentors’ are over.

The Suns’ salary cap situation indicates that Jones and Bower are going to have to be creative to execute this plan. Expect trades and the use of the exceptions that the Suns have available to them to make those acquisitions happen. Unless some extremely good trade opportunity pops up, I don’t expect any of their moves this summer to bring in a “star” player. I could be wrong but I believe that the Suns are going to aim more at bringing in solid role players to fill the gaps in their roster than stars.

Building a contending team around budding star Devin Booker has been questioned by some but so far those efforts mostly revolved around bringing in even more young talent through the draft plus adding older vets to mentor the youngsters. That obviously hasn’t worked. Perhaps Jones’ approach will yield better results and we fans won’t be forced to endure another season long presentation of...


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Out of the possible HC replacements that have been mentioned as targets - Monty Williams, Nate Tibbits, David Vanterpool - which would you prefer?

GuarGuar: I would prefer Monty Williams by a longshot over the other potential candidates. Nobody probably remembers, but I was high on Monty when we had this Fantable question last year! So we’re a year late, but nonetheless we are here. He’s got the most experience by far and is well respected throughout the league. A strong voice and a great leader, something this organization needs.

Sun-Arc: I have to say Monty only because he has head coaching experience and has a known reputation of being a really good person. But I really don’t know who of these three guys would be best, or if any of them would be better than Igor (or Triano).

SDKyle: I’d prefer Williams for one obvious reason: experience. I’m done hiring “respected” assistants. The Suns can’t keep settling for being an on the job training destination.

SouthernSun: Monty Williams please. Monty actually has head coaching experience. Which is not something we’ve really been able to say about any Suns head coach for the last almost decade. Monty is a great motivator of young guys, and seems like he’d be a very solid choice. I understand why the Suns are going after him. Someone in the comment section recently said “No, not Monty Williams, he’s just Mark Jackson without the drama.” This is the Suns. If we could get Mark Jackson without the drama, that’s the best coach we’ve had since D’Antoni.

Alex Sylvester: Williams. He has experience, he’s well respected around the league, he should be able to connect to our players very well...and we also would take him away from LAL!

2. There are obviously a lot of other potential HC candidates that haven’t yet been connected with the Suns. Who else would you like to see the Suns interview for the job?

GuarGuar: Honestly I don’t really have a strong take on anyone outside of Monty Williams. I was on board with keeping Igor. There aren’t a ton of coaches with experience out there who I like. I’m definitely not a fan of going after a SVG, Vogel, Kidd, or McHale. I’d rather take a shot on a first year coach again, despite recent history. Vanterpool from Portland probably sticks out the most, and that is who we are interviewing. If Mark Jackson were interested I wouldn’t mind interviewing him.

Sun-Arc: I really don’t know who we could realistically get at this point (including Monty). I’d LIKE them to interview a few other experienced head coaches like Mark Jackson. Yeah, I know a lot of people hate him, but he really turned around GSW when they were flush with young talent. Maybe Joerger, though I’m not high on him.

Or possibly some other interesting assistants such as Ettore Messina (though language issues again?), Juwan Howard, Jay Larranaga, and Stephen Silas. Perhaps not just for the HC job, but maybe for assistants as well. Becky Hammond is another name mentioned, and I would have some comfort with her as a head coach, but this is not the right situation for the league’s first female coach because of how horrid our FO and owner situation is.

And by the way, if you want to hear what Raja Bell thinks about what is going on with the Suns after firing Igor, you can watch his comments here.

SDKyle: I’d hope they’d interview Dave Joerger, but I understand that’s a long shot because of his track record of clashing with ownership. I think he did well in Sacramento though.

SouthernSun: I know everybody is like “Oh no, not Jason Kidd. The water incident. Stuff from his past.” But honestly, he’s also probably a better coach than any the Suns have had for quite some time. Stan Van Gundy would be another I’m interested in, though after his comments about Sarver he’s never going to be hired here. Joerger would also be a great option. As would Vogel.

Alex Sylvester: To be honest I don’t think there are that many quality candidates out there right now. I always have intrigue with guys from the Popovich coaching tree, Portland’s guys are interesting, but honestly anyone with HC experience is a viable candidate for me (expect Mark Jackson).

3. James Jones said that the Suns will be moving in a new direction by trying to add vets in their prime to relieve the pressure on their younger players. As the Suns are going to have limited cap space this summer, it sounds to me as though Jones is going to be targeting veteran role players to fill out the roster instead of trying for a “home run” acquisition of a star player. What’s your opinion of his “new direction” and my interpretation of it?

GuarGuar: He said in the interview they are going to try and get experienced players who are in their PRIME. Big difference from the past few years where we added old and washed veterans, who didn’t offer positive on court production. It’s one thing to say we are adding these caliber players, and it’s another to do so. I would love us to add some good NBA players who are in their prime. Whether we actually do this is the question. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Sun-Arc: I think the team is not set up well to execute Jones’ “vision” of bringing in vets in their prime that will want to be with the Suns. The cap space situation is not great, as Dave King has pointed out. There are, I believe, nine other teams with more cap space who will likely be competing for some of the same people Jones might target. Do we think Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris would both come here for less than the max each? No way in hell. We are unlikely to outbid anyone for even one of them.

So we will be left bringing in mid-level talents at best. I would not be surprised at all to see the vets turn out to be three guys at Quincy Acy’s level. Basically, Jones will call in some favors from friends, but will still be picking from the bottom of the barrel, or close to the bottom.

I’m leaving a tiny space in my heart/mind for the possibility that Jones can pull off something that will seem like a miracle (think Johnson + our 2019 #6 pick for Jrue Holiday or a Dlo sign-and-trade). But I’m not holding my breath.

In all fairness, I don’t think it is a bad plan. It is the right way to go. Clear out the rif-raff and bring in guys that can help right the ship. But it won’t be easy at all, thanks to Sarver’s management history. Bringing in a good coach will be extremely difficult. And even if we do get a couple of decent vets we’ll still have to wait for an entire season of losing, yet again, while the team tries to learn new schemes from another new coach. I have low expectations and growing frustrations.

SDKyle: I like the stated objective and agree with Rod’s interpretation of it. The Suns would have to tie themselves in knots making the moves necessary to even create cap room for a star player, and then there remain the questions of who could we get. The path back to relevance begins with acquiring vets who can provide leadership AND contribute on the court... not simply be old and wise while being below replacement-level.

SouthernSun: Sounds to me like he plans on trading Warren for cap space to a team with space that could use a 6th man scorer, then signing mid level in their prime vets to fill the glaring holes on the roster. So probably targeting guys like Rubio, Rozier, Brogdon, Collison, Aminu, Young, Davis, Seth Curry, TJ McConnell. Guys like that.

Even if they don’t make a swing for the fences move, if they come away this summer with something like Rubio, Aminu, and Seth Curry, I’d be happy. Along with re-signing Holmes and Oubre.

Hopefully they make a big trade for someone like Jrue Holiday, but Jones made sure not to get our hopes up for a move like that in case one isn’t available or doesn’t make sense.

Alex Sylvester: I think that Jones shooting for quality role players in their prime is a realistic expectation as opposed to swinging for the fences with a star player. Obviously I’d love for KD to walk through the doors but that’s not realistic to bank on.

A guy that’s starting to grow on me a lot is Aminu. He could be exactly what Jones is talking about!

As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their extra effort!


Season Highlights

Devin Booker BEST Highlights From 18-19 Season! UNSTOPPABLE OFFENSE & ELITE SCORING!


Quotes of the Week

”It’s love, man. The fans embraced me first. I remember the first game that I came back home, I had to speak in front of the crowd. I was really nervous. I was like ‘these people don’t know me. I’m just this new kid on the block.’ But, from that day forward they embraced me with nothing but love. I plan to pay it forward ten times over.” - Kelly Oubre Jr.

”My promise is every decision that I make will be with stability in mind.” - James Jones


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Why would any ‘good’ coach want the Phoenix Suns job? Clutch Points

2018-19 Season Rewind: Kelly Oubre Jr. Suns.com

Jazz coach Quin Snyder on Suns firing of Igor Kokoskov: ‘You can imagine my thoughts’. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Evaluating The Phoenix Suns’ Coaching Vacancy For Potential Candidates. Forbes

Phoenix Suns: 2019 NBA Offseason Preview. RealGM

Phoenix Suns: 5 candidates to replace Igor Kokoskov as head coach. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

D’Angelo Russell was not aware of link between him and the Phoenix Suns. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On May 4, 1994, Charles Barkley hit 23-of-31 field goal attempts and finished with 56 points, leading the visiting Suns to a 140-133 win over Golden State and a three-game sweep of their Western Conference First Round series. Barkley’s 56 points tied for the third-highest total ever in an NBA Playoff game, and his 38 points in the first half set a record.

On May 5, 2010, the Phoenix Suns made national headlines when they donned jerseys emblazoned with “Los Suns.” They are worn “to celebrate diversity on Cinco de Mayo” and also to protest a controversial immigration law that had been recently signed by Arizona’s governor. Los Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs, 110-102 in a conference semi-final contest.


Suns Trivia

In 41 minutes on the court together in March, the five-man lineup of Tyler Johnson, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. outscored opponents by a score of 131-101. This lineup shot 50% from the field and made 42-of-46 (91.3%) free throws.


Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

May 14 - NBA Draft Lottery 2019

May 14-19 - NBA Draft Combine 2019 (Chicago)

June 10 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 pm ET)

June 20 - NBA Draft 2019

July 1 - Official start of the 2019/20 NBA league year. July moratorium begins. NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 am ET) and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 5-15 - NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “If the Suns miss out on the chance to draft Zion Williamson they should...”

48.8% - Draft Ja Morant, Coby White or Darius Garland (depending on where their pick falls).

25.6% - Trade the pick even if it’s #2.

25.6% - Just draft the best player available regardless of position.

There were 234 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

For the Suns, hiring a new head coach with previous head coaching experience is...

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Very important.
    (189 votes)
  • 22%
    Important but not a deal breaker.
    (56 votes)
  • 3%
    Not important.
    (8 votes)
253 votes total Vote Now