This is a very critical time for the Phoenix Suns. They’re heavily invested in an aging lineup that has one more, maybe two more seasons to go for it all before a likely strip down and rebuild that could see the team return to below-mediocrity for at least a little while.
So it’s imperative that the Suns have a coach at the helm who understands that, and is ready to take a core of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and whoever else the Suns put around them, and win NOW. The Suns DO NOT need some “visionary” coach who wants to use the job as an opportunity to install his “system.”
That kind of hire is good for a team starting a rebuild, but not a team right on the edge of its contention window.
Of the names being bandied about as of today, the last day of May, Kevin Young strikes me the most as that kind of hire. Dave covered that well a few days ago. He’s a young coach with no head coaching experience and I suspect if he gets the job it will be because he sold Ishbia on a vision for the Suns that extends well beyond 2024 or 2025.
Doc Rivers is a veteran coach whose teams seem to underperform more often than not. That said, he does seem to have a certain touch for dealing with big egos, so that’s something you can say for him that perhaps Monty Williams (though he projected calm and wisdom) might not have been aces at behind the scenes.
Frank Vogel is a very generic choice. He’s a champion, sure, but it was a weird championship with a Lebron/AD team in a bubble. Nothing he’s done in any other season stands out as all that fantastic. But at least he has dmeonstrated an ability to get out of the way of two superstars leading a team to a title. Are there parallels between the 2020 Lakers and our current Suns? I’ll let you all decide how far you want to take that comparison.
At any rate, the stakes here are so much higher than when any of the past five or six suns coaches were hired. Jeff Hornacek, Earl Watson, Igor Kokoskov, and Monty Williams were all hired to basically revive the team when it looked moribund. There was an expectation of a learning curve, an adjustment as his system and philosophy sank in with the players, and as the roster was built out to adjust to what the franchise learned along the way.
This is so different, you have to go back to at least the Alvin Gentry hire more than a decade ago to find a Suns coaching hire with even an ounce of the stakes we have here. And even then, there wasn’t really the same expectations we have now. The 2010 Suns coming a few bounces away from the NBA finals was more of a pleasant surprise than the 2024 Suns reaching the WCF could be.
If there was ever a time for this franchise to meet the moment, this is it. There isn’t room for mistakes. The wrong hire could very well make the last couple of years all for nothing but the memories.
Let’s see how it goes.