Barkley ‘auditioning’ for Suns GM job, Shaq says on TNT

Posted by on May 2nd, 11:52 pm

Shaquille O’Neal waited until the very end of Inside the NBA to drop the bomb, when only die-hard NBA and TNT crew fans were still watching.

Barkley, O’Neal said, was “auditioning” for the Phoenix Suns general manager job.

The Big Spoiler managed to sneak in the words amid his sometimes unintelligible voice, a few words about his “sources,” and why Barkley wasn’t acting like himself that night — a semi-frequent observation by the Round Mound’s other TNT teammates throughout Thursday night’s show.

O’Neal is known to joke. To kid. To mess around. Barkley has not been mentioned among those reported as the Suns’ top candidates for the position, though his name has been tossed around by the public and media just the same.

Barkley’s response to the sincere-sounding Shaq, however, showed his co-worker may have just dropped a hard shell of truth on the NBA world. What was the response from the man who loves to talk, especially about himself?

Silence. Awkward, yes-it-might-be-true silence.

If Shaq’s news is legit, the Suns’ search for a new general manager would become a lot more interesting in the public eye. Barkley has made no secret of his desire to steer the Suns in a better direction since spiraling from Western Conference contender to cellar-dweller.

Yet the idea of the free-spirited Hall-of-Famer working for tight-fisted owner Robert Sarver has long seemed a mismatch made in … well, not heaven. Barkley has made a wealthy living of criticizing even wealthier owners who care more about their own checkbooks than their respective teams’ success, often citing what he would do were he in their shoes.

Now, maybe, possibly, he’s vying for a position that would allow him to call the shots from an NBA office rather than a TV studio desk.

Former players have earned coaching and management roles in the NBA, but there are few — if any — who are as highly recognized by for their playing days with the team they worked for.  Larry Bird, the former Pacers’ president of basketball operations, may be the closest thing to such a combination, but his time in Indiana came from college, not the pros. Ditto for Isiah Thomas and Kevin McHale.

No, Barkley as the general manager of the Suns would mark new territory on multiple fronts. Perhaps the most significant is what endears the public to him in the first place: his personality.

Most former players who take on coaching/management roles are solid, respectful …”professional” for lack of a better word.

Barkley is not — at least not in the way billionaire owners would normally like him to be. He speaks his mind when others would keep quiet. He throws, no, hurls verbal stones when others are either too terrified to do so … or simply don’t have the reputation and way with words that allow them to.

When Barkley speaks, ESPN makes it a story. That’s how well-heard — and respected — he has become as a former player and current analyst. But will it be enough for him to be a future general manager?

According to a Shaq, we’re going to find out.

Matt Petersen

Matt Petersen has covered sports for websites and publications for six years, and currently works as the Sports Web Editor and sports reporter for The Deseret News in Salt Lake City. Matt lived in the Phoenix Valley until 2009, when school and a wife brought him to Utah. He completed his B.A. in Communications and Journalism at Utah Valley University, going on to be a sports reporter at The Daily Herald in Utah before moving on to his current job. Matt has covered the Suns, Jazz, and Arizona Cardinals as well as NCAA and high school sports throughout his career.


Tags: Charles Barkley · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Phoenix Suns News · Shaquille O'Neal

22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 DBreezy // May 3, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Personally I didn’t read Chuck’s response that way. He seemed surprised that Shaq went there and it did look like he decided to refrain from making usual flippant comeback. I just thought that he didn’t want to make fun of his overall desire to be a front office figure not so much the Suns job.

  • 2 Auggie 5000 // May 3, 2013 at 12:41 am


  • 3 bill.thomas // May 3, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Babby gives you lemons, Barkley will make Lemonade !!!

  • 4 You forgot // May 3, 2013 at 1:28 am

    You forgot Danny Ainge.

  • 5 Forever is2long // May 3, 2013 at 8:18 am

    This ranks right up there with Kendall Marshall’s tweets, it is a non story. Now he may be very capable but the Suns cannot afford to miss on this one and Barkley is a risk. I think Sarver and Babby have already dismissed the concept in anticipation of their next stupid move to likely be followed by imminent bodily harm compliments of Sir Charles. At a minimum they know they will be the subject of increased public ridicule. I think it will take a confident owner with a good public image to give Charles a chance.

  • 6 DBreezy // May 3, 2013 at 9:54 am


    I agree that it’s a non-story at this time. If the Suns end up seriously talking about Barkley or Grant Hill, it’s a bad sign and that comment has nothing to do with the ability or potential of those two. For those two to be candidates it would likely mean that a whole lot of other candidates have passed on the position and it would also mean that the Suns would probably still be scrambling for a GM around and possibly thru draft and free agency time. What a nightmare to be a neophyte GM in that situation and still have to fill out a staff on the fly.

  • 7 Scott // May 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I doubt it is possible to put this sort of thing together, as three-headed beasts are more in the realm of myth. But …

    I wouldn’t mind the combo of Barkley and McDonough, with the idea that Babby and Barkely would be gone in two years, leaving McDonough as fully fledged GM.

    McDonough could focus on running the GM office, the scouts, and formulating his lists of who would be good for the team. He would be doing most of the actual work.

    Barkley – who isn’t going to be going to other countries to scout, and who really just wants to kibbitz on the draft, free agents, and trades – would only be in town on occasion to confer with McDonough about what sorts of talents are needed to balance out the team. Barkley would also pick the coach.

    Babby would write the contracts and handle the money side, while also teaching McDonough the ins and outs of the CBA.

    IMO, Barkley really doesn’t want to be a GM. He wants to be an owner. Best scenario? He replaces Sarver as managing partner.

  • 8 Scott // May 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Well … let me change that a bit … as the managing partner is responsible for a lot that Barkley would not be capable of doing, or interested in doing. Like running the company.

    More like Barkley would become head of baskeball operations, if he still wants to have a hand in the biz.

  • 9 Ty-Sun // May 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    It’s my opinion that Barkley is already the most successful GM (Gigantic Mouth) in the history of the NBA. I do like Charles but I also think he’s already got the best possible job for himself at TNT.

  • 10 DBreezy // May 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Not specifically because of Charles or anybody, but perhaps Sarver should have waited to give Babby an extension to leave open the possibility of restructuring the front office depending on how the GM interviews went. I doubt that it was sudden decision from Lon or Robert to dismiss Blanks, so I’m betting that Sarver knew at the time he let Lance go.

    Lon wants somebody in place sooner rather than later with most people thinking that he means before the draft combine on the 15th. The last known candidate interviewed yesterday and Celtics/Knicks should be done this weekend with the Knicks winning if history holds. That means 3 of the four candidates won’t have teams in the playoffs by next week. If this search is still dragging on again at that time it will be eerily similar to the last one. The last candidate, Layden, reeks of fallback scenario as a friend of Babby’s and who knows exactly when SA would let him leave?

  • 11 bill.thomas // May 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    It might be worth hiring Barkley as a player personnel consultant for a month or two, if his TNT contract will allow it.This would give you the advantage of someone who cares a lot about the game, who identifies with the franchise, and who has (presumably) intelligent opinions on players, styles of play and so forth to weigh in, whether they follow his advice or not. He may even be able to talk some other team into a trade it might not otherwise make.

  • 12 DBreezy // May 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    This draft gets fuglier and fuglier, looks like Len is out for 4 to 6 mos after surgery for a stress fracture in his ankle.

  • 13 Forever is2long // May 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm


  • 14 Scott // May 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Heh … does that make Len go up in the draft or down? ;)

  • 15 bill.thomas // May 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Barkley could affect tax consideration. Say he and Babby go to lunch, Babby orders a pastrami on rye, Barkley orders and consumes 3 of same. They write it up as business entertainment expenses for a 4-man meeting, IRS comes in asking a lot of annoying questions, then what???????????

  • 16 bill.thomas // May 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Meant “Barkley could affect tax considerations.”

    The question is, what is an “ordinary and necessary” number of pastrami and rye sandwiches for Charles to consume at lunch with Lon, for business expense purposes. If this is ever litigated, I would expect it to be studied carefully at every law school and at every cooking school in the nation.

  • 17 Keith // May 4, 2013 at 8:30 am

    lol, Scott and Bill. Hilarious.

  • 18 Scott // May 4, 2013 at 8:31 am

    FWIW, there’s an updated scouting report and Schmitz video at DX on Michael Carter-Williams.

    I find it interesting that while current scouting refers to MCW as an unselfish PG who can’t score very well, the scouting on him coming out of high school was that he was a high scorer who wouldn’t pass the ball to anyone because he was afraid he wouldn’t get it back. His PG skills were developed while in college. (If you look lower on the DX page you’ll see the earlier scouting reports.)

  • 19 Auggie 5000 // May 4, 2013 at 9:28 am

    For guys saying that he is under qualified, did Steve Kerr have more experience than him? No. He obviously has a good eye for the game, he gives a shit about this franchise and its fans, and players around the league respect him. Who could be better?

  • 20 Scott // May 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

    @Auggie -

    I agree. And let’s get one thing straight: basketball is not rocket science. A lot of it is very easy to understand, which is fortunate, because a lot of the players aren’t bright.

    You need athleticism, length, motor, IQ, character, scoring, and defense, all of these in as large an amount as you can get (e.g., LeBron James). And preferably the players have the right combination of unselfishness and killer instinct.

  • 21 bill.thomas // May 4, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    If Barkley is signed, I’m definitely leasing space for a deli in the arena–or just outside it.

  • 22 Grant Hill a target in Phoenix Suns GM search, Stein reports // May 7, 2013 at 8:55 am

    [...] Stein also mentioned on Twitter that the team didn’t interview Charles Barkley, putting to rest any rumors that Shaq might’ve caused during a late-night TNT broadcast. [...]

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