When the Diamondbacks fired a proven manager in Bob Melvin and replaced him with their scouting director in A.J. Hinch, many eyebrows were raised.
But the premise behind the move was that the D-backs wanted a manager who knew their young players better than anyone and thus in theory at least would be the man best suited to develop them.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Suns promoted longtime scout John Shumate to an assistant coaching position on Monday.
Shumate previously spent seven of the past eight seasons as a Suns scout, while also coaching the Phoenix Mercury in 2003. He has been in the Suns’ organization for 12 years total and has been in pro basketball for over 30, according to Suns.com.
” ‘Shu’ is a teacher at heart,” Suns GM Steve Kerr told The Arizona Republic. “He’s been great on scouting, but with Robin and Earl being a big part of our future, we felt it’s important to have him as part of the staff.”
Kerr says that because Shumate was a 6-foot-9 big man during his playing days whom the Suns picked fourth overall in the 1974 NBA Draft out of Notre Dame.
He averaged 11.3 ppg in 43 games as a rookie for the first Suns team to ever reach the Finals in 1975-76 before being moved to Buffalo in the middle of that year. In five NBA seasons, he averaged 12.3 and 7.5.
Shumate, 57, then went on to a long coaching career that includes stops as a head coach at Grand Canyon College and Southern Methodist and as an assistant at Notre Dame and with the Toronto Raptors.
I’ve long wondered why the Suns have taken so long to fill out their coaching staff, just as I did when Kevin O’Neill decided to stick with just Josh Pastner and Miles Simon at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08 instead of at least bringing on another set of eyes in someone like former assistant Jim Rosborough.
The Suns’ coaching staff was similarly a man down after Terry Porter was let go and Gentry was promoted, and in a game with every angle of every second overanalyzed, it must be nice for Gentry to have an experienced mind like Shumate to now be able to turn to.