About a year ago at this time Suns owner Robert Sarver laid out a plan to change the structure of the Phoenix Suns’ front office to put specialists in a position of strength.
Sarver sees four main duties for a basketball operations department: evaluation, contract negotiation, understanding the collective bargaining agreement and communicating with players.
Instead of hiring one general manager who is at least adequate in all four of those departments, Sarver chose to hire multiple executives in president of basketball operations Lon Babby and general manager Lance Blanks who together check off all those boxes.
“They’re kind of different skill sets, and sometimes they take different personalities,” Sarver said when announcing the changes a year ago. “What maybe made most sense was to put together a team and rather than bring someone in who can be a generalist in all those areas, have two people who could be specialists who really could give us the best so we’re really good at all four.”
Of course, this move was made after most of the dust had cleared on the 2010 free agency chase, a crucial time the Suns went through without a GM, so the jury is largely still out on this arrangement after the Babby/Blanks duo made two trades (one very successful, one not so much) and a safe but solid draft pick in Markieff Morris.
Even with a true first season on the job in the books, it would likely to be too early to judge their success since many long-term moves (particularly draft picks) take time to develop, but that’s especially true for this front office crew without a free agency period to their name just yet.
Plus, I always felt the aftermath of the lockout would be the best time for this structure to prove its merit. The thinking was that Babby is a lawyer who has been poring over contracts all his working life. If anybody can find a loophole in what figures to be a very complicated collective bargaining agreement, it would be someone like him.
As things are Babby said the restructured from office is working together very well during his end of the season press conference.
“I think Lance and I are working hand and glove just the way we hoped we would work,” Babby said. “I think we each work with great respect for each other’s abilities, staying within our lanes of expertise, and on a personal level I couldn’t be happier to be here living in this community, working with the people I’m working with, and I think the third member of kind of our front office John Treloar has been a great voice of reason and experience.
“I have no reservation about the quality of character and the quality of talent we have in the front office and how it’s working.
“But the proof is going to be in the pudding, and the pudding is still cooking.”
Once the lockout ends, the pressure will be on the Suns’ unorthodox front office to improve in the present with Steve Nash or start building a team that can be competitive in the future.
Babby on his first season
At his end of the year press conference, Babby discussed what he’s learned personally during his first year on the job:
“I think about that a lot, and I think the thing I’ve learned most is try to learn to deal with the rollercoaster of the season a little bit better. I think when we win we’re never going to lose again and I think when we lose we’re never going to win again, and in my position I have to make sure I’m staying on an even keel in terms of my emotional reaction to the team, and I think I’ve learned to do that as the year’s gone on. It’s an invigorating job, it’s an invigorating experience, and it’s fun because of that. But I think you all have to make sure you’re making judgments based on sound reasoning and careful analysis.”
Yep, sounds like a former lawyer all right.