The sole survivor of the Suns’ offseason coaching staff sweep has to be doing something right.
As James Jones looks to further put his imprint on this franchise from a culture perspective and build out a real basketball development program in Phoenix, the Northern Arizona Suns are likely to play a big role. Keeping head coach Bret Burchard (and general manager Dylan DeBusk) in the same role this year in Prescott Valley has to be considered a major symbol of trust in the Suns’ G League infrastructure.
On the latest episode of The Outlet, the Suns’ in-house podcast, Burchard discussed how he hopes to be an extension of the Suns’ coaching staff and what has helped him be successful as head coach so far up north.
After spending the offseason in Phoenix alongside Monty Williams’ new staff, Burchard said, “I need to be an extension of them in the G League, so that’s been really good to spend time with them in the summer.”
His relationship with Williams seems to be off to a good start as well, as Burchard noted Williams’ “strong core values” will be important for the organization as it builds a culture.
“The culture has to be an extension,” Burchard said. “In Phoenix, it’s going to be really strong on competing and defense and sharing the ball and being on time every day, all those things have to be core pillars for what we do in Prescott Valley.”
Burchard sees his job as preparing each G League player for the day when they are ultimately called up to the Phoenix roster. That means keeping schemes similar, demanding the same daily habits out of players, and constantly communicating with DeBusk, Williams and Jones.
If they assign players or they call up any of our players, it has to be a smooth transition for them to jump right in and play,” Burchard said. “Obviously, we won’t get as sophisticated maybe in our schemes and our plays and that kind of thing in the G League, but from a development perspective, understanding how to play, reads on the court, even just learning how to compete at a high level for three to four games a week, which might be a heavier load than some guys have had before.”
When it comes to specific players, Burchard elaborated quite a bit on his work during Summer League with the guys who will be around during the regular season.
This was Burchard’s second summer working with Elie Okobo, who survived the Suns’ offseason roster overhaul. Burchard has seen Okobo make strides as a leader in particular.
“Where last year maybe he came to the side and said, ‘Coach, shouldn’t we be doing this?’ ... This year, he did it,” Burchard said. “In the middle of practice, he’d stop a drill or interject his voice, so it was cool to see him grow as a leader and a point guard in that way.”
As an example of his love of player development, Burchard explained on the podcast that he set up quizzes and journal entries for rookie Jalen Lecque to help him learn and remember schemes. Burchard quizzed Lecque on play diagrams and had the youngster come back and draw them all up. Some nights, Burchard assigned journal entries to help Lecque reflect on the day of work and what he learned.
DeBusk has been alongside the front office everywhere they’ve gone this summer, and Burchard has been part of this franchise since 2008. Both are key parts of what Jones and Williams are building, and it’s easy to see why Burchard was retained when you hear him speak. If building good habits and working with players on a human level are among the focuses this summer, Burchard fits right in.
There’s a ton in this episode of The Outlet, so check it out: