A look at Suns GM candidates Ryan McDonough & Scott Layden

While Jeff Weltman is considered a favorite to land the Phoenix Suns’ general manager position, the team will also consider two candidates on very opposite ends of the NBA spectrum. While the 48-year-old Weltman sits in the middle of the experience versus upside – as if we’re talking about lottery picks — Boston Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough and Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden span a great width of front office experience.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that those two round out the short-list of candidates to resume the duties of the Suns’ general manager, and Paul Coro reported that list with the addition of former Pacers GM David Morway.

It could very well come down to what exactly Robert Sarver and president of basketball operations Lon Babby are looking for. Do they go for the proven Layden, the familiar Weltman who they interviewed before hiring Lance Blanks, or the young McDonough?

The embattled but proven vet

Scott Layden has seen it all. His father, Frank Layden, coached the Utah Jazz and helped develop his son’s eye. In 1981, he joined the team as a scout, then began working for his father as an assistant the next year and eventually made his way into the Jazz’s front office. His best work of talent evaluation is hard to beat — he’s considered responsible for drafting both John Stockton and Karl Malone. His time with Utah extended into the 1990s, and before he left for the New York Knicks, Layden left the Jazz with a nice piece in Andrei Kirilenko.

His tenure with the Knicks from 1999-2004 didn’t go as well.

Layden inherited a stable but aging franchise and was criticized for too much loyalty as he failed to develop the New York mindset coming from the calmness of Salt Lake City. He re-signed aging Knicks such as Allan Houston for contracts that weren’t only out of this world but poor considering their ensuing injury problems, and he was responsible for botched draft picks such as Michael Sweetney and — gulp — Maciej Lampe.

Allan Houston has been a one-man show the last two seasons, but he is not worth the same kind of money — $100 million — that Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd just signed for. No other club could offer Houston more than $72 million when he was a free agent two years ago, so why not give him $75 million? Now, despite his ability, Houston is basically untradeable.

Reserves like Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley can be found in the Continental Basketball Association for $400,000 a year, yet Layden brought the two former Jazz role players aboard for a combined $83 million. Clarence Weatherspoon, who has become a useless spare part in the Knicks’ storehouse of power forwards, has three years and nearly $18 million left on his contract.

The pieces Layden left in New York couldn’t be picked up by his replacement, Isiah Thomas.

Layden returned to Utah in 2005 as an assistant on coach Jerry Sloan’s staff and stayed with the Jazz until 2012. He was brought into the front office of the Spurs last year.

As is, it’s hard to see if Layden would take the job in Phoenix. It’s only a half-step up the food chain compared to San Antonio, and much will probably depend on Layden’s desire to face such a pressure-packed challenge. No, it’s not New York, but Layden will obviously be charged with rebuilding for the Suns rather than reloading for the Spurs.

As an aside regarding the coaching search, Layden’s hire could bring back a former Suns player as a coach. While Jeff Hornacek is in the running for the Philadelphia 76ers head coaching vacancy as Wojnarowski reports, Phoenix could very well be on his list as well. His candidacy would take a large boost should the Suns bring on Layden as the general manager, according to the Deseret News.

The high-upside GM prospect

If I tried, it’d be hard to outdo the profile that SB Nation’s Paul Flannery wrote on McDonough not long ago.

But to be brief, the 33-year-old already has respect across the league. Working under former Suns coach and player Danny Ainge, McDonough’s ascent has been quick and dirty. His greatest accomplishment, ironically, has been using the Suns’ 21st overall draft pick to acquire All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. He was convincing enough to sway the Celtics’ higher-ups to take on Brian Grant’s contract while giving up a draft pick and cash to Phoenix in exchange for the pick that became Rondo.

And in general, Boston’s winning hasn’t kept them from grabbing draft-day steals. Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Glen Davis and Rondo all came in years following winning seasons.

Perhaps the most impressive piece of McDonough’s work has been through this season. When Sullinger, Rondo and Leandro Barbosa led the list of injuries, one of the Celtics’ knee-jerk moves included signing of former lottery talent Terrence Williams, who was seemingly forgotten while playing in China.

“If a guy is talented enough to be in the NBA, you have to constantly monitor him until he retires,” says McDonough. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I don’t want that guy, or he’s not my kind of guy.’ Well, it’s difficult to dismiss somebody with NBA-caliber ability.”

If Sarver and Babby want “The next generation GM” as is Flannery’s title, McDonough would be a hard name to overlook.

Who else is in the mix?

Ken Berger of CBS Sports reports, as does Coro, that Morway is still in the mix and is a good friend of Babby’s. That would make my mention of his poor relationship with Larry Bird less of a concern — one sticking point for the Suns to be successful would obviously be how the new GM and Babby get along.

And one darkhorse candidate that Coro mentioned a while back is Tony Ronzone, whose backround specializes in international scouting. He was hired by the Dallas Mavericks front office last summer, and he previously worked for the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’s a big fan of Wes Johnson, apparently — where he helped scout Ricky Rubio, and under Rick Carlisle with the Detroit Pistons. He was the director of basketball operations with the Pistons, where he was responsible for picks such as Mehmet Okur and Carlos Delfino.

Ronzone also had a role with USA Basketball for former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo and has another Arizona tie as well. Ronzone worked as an assistant coach for former ASU coach Bill Freider.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Gm Suns GM Search

  • john

    My vote would be for McDonough, but my vote for Suns GM counts for less than my vote for the POTUS, which is to say nothing.

    Either way, I don’t think this could possibly go any worse for the next guy than it did for Blanks.

  • a-game

    I vouch for the new breed of talent evaluators (presti, hennigan, ujiri) – ryan mcdonough all the way!!!

  • Azbballfan

    Whoever we get will be better than Blanks now doubt, i dont know about Layden though

    as good as the Jazz were, Layden (and some other Knicks execs) left that team in a hole it took a decade to get out of

    Layden is likely flanked by other people in the Spurs organization that know what their doing, do we really want him and babby to team up?

    Babby has to realize if he screws it up, again,and hires the wrong GM his behind will be shown the door

    McD gets my vote for consistently finding productive players with low picks in the 1st round

    Even if McD gets a hired and is terrible for some reason, babby can always fall back on the logic that hewas the new breed of GM

    Which reminds me, how long is it until the scouting process is all done by a heartless computer program that uses PER and win shares on who to draft

    We could call it the Draftinator

  • DBreezy

    Seems to me the notion that Weltman is the frontrunner is based mostly on Bucher’s tweet from the other day that also included false info on Sarver as well as knowledge that Weltman interviewed before here. According to Coro and Wojo, Weltman is supposed to interview today so how is he the frontrunner already over guys who have already interviewed?

  • Scott

    Please don’t think the Suns can’t screw up more than they did with Blanks. They can. And they can also pick up somebody just as bad. The fact they’re even talking to some of these guys shows how lost they truly are.

    Ryan McDonough is the only real option out of these finalists. If Babby picks anyone else, he’s incompetent to the nth degree.

    Hornacek does seem like an interesting option at coach, BTW. It would be nice to get some more of the old gang back.

  • Scott

    As far as the draft goes, a possible prospect for the Suns at #30 is Glen Rice, Jr.

    Other interesting possibilities for Summer League / Training Camp are James Southerland (a 6′ 8″ marksman) and Richard Howell, a 6′ 8″ rebounding specialist.

  • john

    I didn’t say the next guy couldn’t be as bad. Usually my sports fandom leads me to believe things can ALWAYS get worse. In the case of the Suns with Blanks, I don’t know that that’s true. It could be equally as bad. But getting worse would be a feat I don’t think even Kahn could accomplish.

  • bill.thomas

    I don’t quite follow the implied logical leap that if we hire Layden, it may “help” us to get Hornacek as a coach. If he wants to coach here, wouldn’t he sign a contract to work with any competent GM?

  • john

    The GM has to hire the coach, and given the level of familiarity between Layden and Hornacek, I think the implication is the Layden might be willing to bring Hornacek in as his man for the job.

  • Scott

    Gentry has interviewed for the coaching position with Charlotte. I bet he gets it.

    Jordan is cheap, and Gentry is going to be the most qualified coach willing to work for low pay.

  • DBreezy

    I want McD to get it, but I wouldn’t automatically jump off a bridge if Weltman or Morway got it although I have reservations with both. I have zero faith in Layden and the newfound knowledge that he and Lon are friends is frightening.

    I hope the reported interest from candidates is mutual this time. We went through three separate spaced out iterations of reported final candidates in 2010 before we got the dynamic duo. Not only can we get worse than Blanks, we can get worse than the current list too.

  • Forever is2long

    Maybe we can get worse than Blanks but I do not think I have ever seen worse in the NBA. What he did the three seasons with the Suns in trading Dragic and a 1st round pick for Brooks (who is better than Marshall) so we could get the 8th spot in the playoffs.

    Then he drafts Morris and Marshall both whom I doubt will ever become NBA starters. After Gentry is fired he hires a totally inexperienced Hunter who apparently knew nothing about Xs and Os, over Majerle, a long time assistant.

    I guess we could bring Ray Charles back from the dead and he would do worse, maybe.

  • DBreezy



    Just start reading at General Manager of the New York Knicks.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    I don’t know. As I see it, if the Suns are trying to replace Blanks, the only candidate they’re missing is Isiah Thomas, and that’s probably only because he wants more money.

  • DBreezy

    Idk Scott, purely in the talent evaluator role, Thomas could be the best of the candidates! He has drafted: Damon Stoudemire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady, Trevor Ariza, Channing Frye, David Lee and Wilson Chandler. He also pulled off several trades where he got solid talent back even if that talent clearly didn’t mesh together like: Z-Bo, Curry, Francis, Marbury and Jamal Crawford. Amazingly if you just look at the talent moved in most of his deals and not the cap ramifications which he wouldn’t be in charge of here, Zeke actually got the better of most of his deals.

    ex: Z-Bo for Steve Francis and Frye, Crawford and Jerome Williams, for Deke’s carcass, Othella, Frank Williams, and Cezary Trybanski and even Curry + Antonio Davis for Sweetney, Tim Thomas, and Jermaine Jackson.

    I know you were kidding and I have no interest in him for the job, but Zeke does have a better talent evaluation record than several of the official candidates.

  • foreveris2long

    Ok DBreezy, I give, Layden was worse than Blanks. I forgot how bad the Knicks were when he was there. Those were pretty scary deals. That was a good article.

  • bill.thomas

    I’m wondering why we’re even talking to Layden. I guess bc he’s a friend of Babby. Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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  • FAR

    Great article on McDonough


    hope suns select McDonough

    Barkley may need some time as assistant GM or some FO job before, I like him but we need the GM to win, not to be happy for some weeks, the team will still sucks all will want the GM and the rest of the FO heads, and that could be the end of love with Barkley.

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