Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson and former University of Arizona big man Sean Rooks have officially been added to the Phoenix Suns as members of the player development staff, the team announced Thursday.
Sampson, who is a 2012 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee, holds the official title of assistant coordinator under coordinator Lindsey Hunter, who was brought on in March.
Mark West, Phoenix’s vice president of player programs, leads the group charged with building up the Suns’ young roster. It was West, remember, who dealt with a young Amar’e Stoudemire after he dropped in the draft because of questions surrounding his background. The new-era Phoenix front office is looking for that same on- and off-court development with the current team.
General manager Lance Blanks alluded to the Suns’ commitment to building such a staff this offseason, when the team went in the direction of getting younger. The offseason acquisitions Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall as well as returner Markieff Morris were looked at as developmental pieces, and not all of them would necessarily have immediate impacts in Phoenix.
“Why do I think it’ll work here?” Blanks said after the Suns flipped Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick for Johnson. “We’re in a position where we need young guys and we need to grow, and we need to grow as far as those guys will take us. (Johnson is) coming in pretty much with a blank slate.
“We’re really excited about this player development program.”
The additions of Sampson and Rooks fill out a staff that also includes Phoenix Mercury head coach Corey Gaines.
Sampson, 52, will act as a replacement for former Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright, who was released by the team after last season, Paul Coro reported. He will help in practices as a 7-foot-4 road block.
“With the addition of Ralph, we now have a development staff of experienced NBA veterans who can help each player at every position on our roster, on and off the court,” Blanks said in a team release. “We are excited to have a Hall of Famer and a person of Ralph’s character and integrity around our players every day.”
Rooks is a 7-foot center with 12 years of NBA experience. The 43-year-old has a supporting role on the development staff, according to the Suns’ release. He spent the last few seasons coaching in the D-League for the Bakersfield Jam, the now-defunct New Mexico Thunderbirds and the Sioux Falls Skyforce.