It’s official, and it might be considered a best-case scenario. The Phoenix Suns announced on Tuesday that Boston Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough is their new GM.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 620 reports that McDonough will sign a four-year contract after becoming the favorite out of a list of finalists that included Milwaukee Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman and San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden. Former Pacers general manager David Morway was initially on the Suns’ wish-list as well.
Former Suns player and current Clipper most actively the night before McDonough was hired.was a rumored candidate,
“Ryan distinguished himself among an impressive group of candidates for our GM position,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby in a prepared statement. “His natural leadership and communication skills will serve the Suns well. And, his prodigious work ethic and ability to identify talent will enable us to take full advantage of the 10 draft choices, including six in the first round, that we have over the next three years. We welcome his championship pedigree to our organization.”
McDonough, 33, spent the last three seasons as the Celtics’ assistant GM, but he’s been with the team since he was 23 years old, working his way up as a video assistant, scout and director of player personnel. His most well-received and influential decisions with Boston came in the draft. He was part of a group that pushed for the team to trade for Rajon Rondo, who was picked by the Suns with the 21st overall selection in 2006. McDonough also selected 19th overall pick Avery Bradley in 2010, and freefalling forward Jared Sullinger in the 2012 draft.
First on the laundry list of items for McDonough to clean up is finding a head coach. Lindsey Hunter is the only person on the public list of candidates, but at this point it could be nothing more than Babby fulfilling a promise to keep him in mind.
After that, McDonough will be charged will restocking the Suns via the draft. Suddenly, the Suns’ direction appears much more clear. The hire isn’t just one that will earn Phoenix a tad bit of respect — Boston exec Danny Ainge advocated his assistant to win the job and Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck issued a statement after the hire went official — but one that shows the team is ready to go into a ground-up rebuild after spinning its wheels since Steve Kerr left in 2010.
“Ryan has been an important part of our basketball operations and will be missed,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said in a statement to the Globe. “I personally hired him following a conversation with his late dad Will and Red Auerbach and expected that he would pursue a career in our media department. But he requested a role as junior scout and excelled immediately, working his way to assistant GM and now a full GM job in the league.
“I couldn’t be happier for him and I am sure his late dad as well as Red are very proud right now.”
It should be of note that McDonough’s communication skills will be a huge bump in the right direction following Lance Blanks’ tenure. As Michael Schwartz and I wrote in our discussion nearly two weeks ago, that was Blanks’ biggest issue that went unspoken about — it was fair that all the criticism shot his way was directed at his lack of talent evaluation.
One more negative about Blanks was just how he completely failed to connect with the media and hence the community. I hate to overstate the importance of that media bond because I know you can be a perfectly good general manager without it, but when you have the media in your corner more often than not you’ll get the benefit of the doubt. I remember a pre-draft session when Blanks seemed to be on a negative rampage from the start, sarcastically asking us why we were questioning him about players to improve the defense when Alvin Gentry had just told us the team needed to improve defensively. That was a rare time when he did step in front of the microphones — as most of the time he avoided the media altogether — which just fed the cycle of distrust between the two parties.
McDonough is a journalism and mass communications major out of the University of North Carolina, the son of long-time Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough and the brother of ESPN broadcaster Sean. His other brother, Terry, was an NFL player personnel executive who was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars a week ago. With that background, there’s a good chance Ryan won’t be hiding from the media, and there’s a solid bet he has sound perspective of what he’ll need to do to fulfill his front office duties.
Additionally, Babby’s choice of Blanks’ successor went along with what he said the Suns would be looking for — a talent evaluator who could get the most out of the many draft picks that Phoenix has in the next couple of offseasons. McDonough is “The next generation” general manager that SB Nation’s Paul Flannery described in his profile of the Celtics’ assistant GM.
Babby, Robert Sarver and the Suns can now move head-first into the scouting process with one of the brighter NBA analytic minds in charge in the offseason dubbed “the summer of analytics.”