Ryan McDonough officially hired as Phoenix Suns GM

Posted by on May 7th, 11:36 am

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 Grant Hill was a rumored candidate, most actively the night before McDonough was hired.

“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.

Wrote Schwartz:

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.”

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Boston Celtics · Ryan McDonough

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Keith // May 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Great hire. Can’t wait to see how the next era unfolds.

  • 2 Forever is2long // May 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Finally, an excellent hire.

  • 3 john // May 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I’m going to try to remember the number of “meh”s or “bad hire”s I hear today. I don’t remember hearing many of them when Blanks was hired. In a few years when the Suns haven’t improved, I’m wondering if the same people who are saying “good hire” today will blame $arver for hiring an unproven kid or will they stick by their guns and realize they were just as fooled.

    And likewise, the people who have been ranting and raving about how much of an idiot $arver is, will they change their tune of McD turns out to be a great hire, or will they just say he got lucky?

    Should be fun to see how this turns out. My guess, based on what I know of Suns fans, they’ll act like they’ve always been on board if things are good, and they’ll act like they knew better back when the decisions were being made if things go bad.

  • 4 Scott // May 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Welcome to Phoenix, Ryan!

    Feel free to make some bold changes, so long as you’ve done your due diligence.

    This is a time for complete rebuilding.

  • 5 Azbballfan // May 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This looks like an excellent hire

    Now lets go in the draft and get some talent on this team that can actually play defense

    McD was very good at drafting playing who played great or atleast very good Defense

    This probably means that Oladipo is the man for the Suns if he is availible at number 4 or whatever we end up with in the draft

    he seems to fit the profile of athletic guards that can defend that McD targeted while he was in Boston

    I expect the Suns to be busy on draft day making trades and clearning out of the roster to fit what the GM wants, because right now this team cant score and plays terrible defense, so obviously thats gotta change

    Now the next step is finding a new coach

    bottom line this team needs more talent and needs to play much, much better defense

    I know, the Suns have been run and gun no defense teams for decades

    that was fun and all but it never brought us a title

    we need rebounding and defense first and 2nd and offense 3rd

    Yeah, scoring is important but it doesnt matter how good you are on offense if you cant defend or rebound

    Hopefully they choose a new coach before the draft and we can get some extra picks

    people on bright side of the sun have thrown around trade ideas like Gortat and the 30th pick for Jeremy Lamb, their pick from Toronto, Stefalosha, and Hasheem Thabeet

    Stefalosha would be then sent packing to Boston for a 2nd round pick, or something

    I would totally do that trade if i was the Suns

    we would get rid of Gortat, get some young players with potential and get a draft pick

    OKC would get a better starting center than they have now, thats on an expiring deal and only gives up players that played limited roles at best on a title contending team

  • 6 Scott // May 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    @john -

    I didn’t like Blanks when he was hired, but to be honest I didn’t have much of a reason why. I just felt a disturbance in the force, as if thousands of Suns fans’ playoff dreams cried out in despair and were suddenly silenced.

    It’s hard to know about GM candidates, because they’re not so well known. I like the Ryan hire, but I can’t defend it any better than I can defend my dislike of the Blanks hire (at the time).

  • 7 john // May 7, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    @Scott – Are you sure your name isn’t Ben?

  • 8 Scott // May 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Hopefully McDonough is Ben.

    He’s our only hope. :)

  • 9 Ty-Sun // May 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    As I said before in another thread, I’m happy with the hire. But now I’m more curious about who the Suns will hire as their new head coach and which direction the team will move into the future. Hiring McDonough makes me think that the Suns are moving toward developing a defensive team. I hope so. The new coach should tell us more about the future direction of the team.

  • 10 JD // May 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    @ john – I recall not knowing much at all about Blanks when he was hired. There was talk that he took credit for drafting JJ Hickson and that was about it.

    McDonough comes from a successful, proud franchise and has plenty of endorsements from his former employer as well as from around the league. He has also been given credit for more actual transactions than Blanks was. On paper it looks like a good hire.

    Fans tend to give new personnel the benefit of the doubt. Fans hoped Blanks would turn out to be good. However McDonough seems to have much more to draw from than Blanks. Given the wisdom gained from recent failures, it appears the Suns have made some changes and chose a much stronger candidate this time around.

  • 11 a-game // May 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    @jd

    Well said!

    Ryan got endorsed from both Ainge and Red Auerbach. And yes, he seems alot better on paper than blanks was.

    I mean c’mon JJ Hickson?…pffffff…good job Blanks, wooty wooo…

    Ryan is credited for Rondo and Avery, but most are also forgetting Jeff Green. He was the man behind that deal to bring in the young athletic talented Green.

    The guy’s got an eye for talent!!!

  • 12 Scott // May 7, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Ryan was also endorsed by Doc Rivers.

  • 13 john // May 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    @JD

    Your recollection of the lack of feathers in Blanks’ cap isn’t based on fact. YOU might not remember, but it’s not hard to look up the fact that Lance Blanks was highly touted as the best option in that summer, and Lance’s hat was filled with feathers such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Luis Scola.

    Blanks was associated with virtually no picks of any significance in Cleveland for two reasons. 1. With LeBron, you’re not going to be getting any low first round draft picks. 2. Cleveland didn’t have many picks in the first place. From 2005 to 2009, the Cavs had six picks, none higher than 19 (JJ Hickson). The Cavs also drafted Danny Green in 2009 with the 46th pick. Yes, the same Danny Green who gets nearly 28 minutes a game with the second-best team in the league and nailed a clutch three in double-overtime last night to help the Spurs escape with a victory.

    By all accounts, Blanks was the man to hire back in 2010. I had NEVER heard anything negative about him before then (for some reason Danny Ferry seemed to shoulder that load), and I had heard plenty of positive things.

    I personally believe McDonough will do better than Blanks, and I have more faith in him because he appears to have more faith in numbers (and I’m a big believer in numbers), but the Blanks hire brought the same warm feelings back in the day.

  • 14 Azbballfan // May 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    This is kind of off topic, but bright side of the sun is reporting that Beasley is under investigation for sexual assault and this has been going on since January…..

    why are we learning about this now?

    If the allegations turn up credible evidence that he did what he is being accused of, he should be shwon the door

    if this is true its likely going to end his career

    and to think i had just written the other day about how he had previously done little damage off the court in the last season

    oh well

    if he was difficult to trade before hes impossible to trade now

    this is sad for everyone involved, and Beasley should not have been in the situation in the 1st place where something could even potentially happen

    other Suns players i am sure play video games or work out in their free time

    i remember a long time ago, nick anderson the former magic player was accused of something similiar and he turned out to be innocent, i can only hope that for Beasley it works out the same way

    The Suns must have known about this since the investigation started during the season, was there some cover up?

    organizations arent that stupid where they dont know what their players are doing

  • 15 DBreezy // May 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I didn’t slam Blanks outright when he got hired, but I wasn’t too impressed either. It was clear that he was a long way from where the road started in searching for a GM and that he only surfaced as a candidate when several others passed. Also there wasn’t much of a proven track record of good decisions he was involved in with CLE. The latter proved relevant as he basically tried to turn the Suns into CLE back then, minus Lebron. Remember all of the Suns FO talk last summer and season about this team having everything it needs, except that one star piece?

  • 16 Rich Anthony // May 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    GM hires, initially, should be ranked / graded on a 3-yr scale, same as the rookie classes are. They should also be linked to their picks over that period as well as the roster moves they make.

    OLADIPO2013 – sorry. Slipped out.

    I only have a few things I’m looking for from our new GM over the next couple of seasons.

    1) SOLID drafting. Need+abilityx(athleticism/durability)

    2) Cap stability. Keep the suffocating contracts at arms length while the rebuild is in full force; trade for assets like expiring contracts / draft picks / young talent (on the cheap) and extend gems the Suns manage to come across in an intelligent manner.

    3) sign a megastar***
    Under the conditions that:
    A) the required contract doesn’t prevent the team from becoming true /
    legit contender
    B) that guy actually FITS with the pieces newly installed.
    *** (this one applies only if the Suns land great players, but no SUPER talent over the next 2 years kind of like CP3 to the Clippers)

    That’s all I need from him personally. If that can be accomplished over the next few seasons he will be successful in my eyes.

  • 17 Bill-in-Tokyo // May 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    No more eyes for talent. We are blind by choice!
    Long live the Quants! We will rule the world!
    Please line up on the left to kiss our algorithms and Stat sheets.
    What he does for a coach will tell us a lot about him (power, freedom?) and the future course the Suns will take.

  • 18 DBreezy // May 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    @Azbballfan,

    I’m not sure the McD hire pushes things towards Oladipo. The Celts haven’t had a pick this high since they took Green and moved him so it’s hard to know what type of player they would have gone for high in a draft. Also, much like the Spurs, the Celts believe defense is a mindset built from the top by the coaches. Weltman also mentioned this when asked if he targeted players in the draft specifically for their defensive prowess. The Celts have taken a number of players when weren’t considered defenders coming into the league like Big Baby, Sullinger, Powe, Jefferson, Gerald Green, etc. It’s not like Pierce and Allen were considered defenders before Tibs and KG arrived, just like its hard to remember that Bosh was once considered softer than Amar’e on D.

  • 19 DBreezy // May 7, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    http://greenstreet.weei.com/sports/boston/basketball/celtics/2012/11/06/doc-rivers-i-want-mike-longabardi-to-take-it-personally-when-teams-score/

    #7 in defensive efficiency with a ton of injuries.

  • 20 Azbballfan // May 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Yeah that was my stealth post for OLADIPO 2013!

    oops, i said too much………

    I heard anthony bennett is the latest player to go down and need surgery

    needs a new rotator cuff,out 4 months ouch

    either way i dont think anyone will argue that this team has to play better defense

  • 21 Forever is2long // May 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    John,
    I recall referencing the Blanks hire as suspect and I called him”The Intern” because I felt the Suns essentially forced Kerr out who was initially the intern but seemed to have benefitted from his growing pains. I felt if the Suns had to replace Kerr, get someone more experienced than Blanks. I blamed Sarver because I thought he intended to hire one of the least expensive candidates.

    Now if McDonough fails, you can record my testimony, it will not be Sarver’s fault. I give Sarver credit for encouraging the hire of one of the better candidates on paper. I know there is always a risk bringing a new executive on board but I think this one is worth taking. Kick me off the board for 60 days if this move fails.

  • 22 JD // May 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    @john – Blanks does not get credit for Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Luis Scola.

    Ginobili was drafted in 1999. According to the Suns website, Blanks joined the Spurs front office in 2000.

    Parker and Scola were drafted in 2001 and 2002 while Blanks was a scout. He didn’t become director of scouting until September 2002, after those three players were drafted. That would be like saying Todd Quinter was responsible for drafting Nash, Marion, and Amare.

  • 23 john // May 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    And the Spurs didn’t have great drafts and free agent pickups after 2002?

    Keep searching.

    @forever – haha, I wouldn’t wish anyone to be kicked off the board, not even Tony. I just want to make sure people aren’t going to curse Sarver for making this hire when things go bad after they’re all for it right now.

    If this goes bad, count me in the group that didn’t see it coming.

  • 24 john // May 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    And, also, I think it’s fairly obvious the people on the inside believed Blanks deserved at least some of the credit for the things that went right, considering his rate of promotions (about the same way McD has ascended the ranks). That doesn’t happen by accident.

  • 25 Beasley's No.1 fan // May 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Who cares about Blanks? Seriously why are people still talking about this clown?

    Let’s focus on the future and on our new GM not on past clowns that sucked more then Brittney Spears on dope.

  • 26 JD // May 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    @john – Blanks wasn’t event assistant GM at the Spurs, only director of scouting for two seasons, Here is who they drafted during his tenure: Leandro Barbosa, Beno Udrih, Romain Sato, and Sergei Karaulov. Some of the highlighted acquisitions were Rasho Nesterovic, Robert Horry, and Malik Rose. Not sure if you consider these as examples of great drafts and free agent pickups.

    As I originally said, McDonough has better qualifications. He has had more direct influence in successful transactions and more notoriety both in his former front office and around the league. McD was assistant GM at Boston. Blanks was only director of scouting at San Antonio and was the junior assistant GM at Cleveland behind Danny Ferry and Chris Grant.

    We don’t know how McD will work out as Suns GM. But we do know that he is starting out with a more proven track record than Blanks. Based only on that, it is easier to feel that this new hire will work out well.

  • 27 john // May 8, 2013 at 7:06 am

    He went from being a scout to director of scouting to assistant GM to GM in 10 years.

    I’m sure no one thought he deserved any credit for anything, which is why he was promoted. /sarcasm

    First, I think Luis Scola was also drafted while Blanks was director of scouting (he was most certainly in the Spurs org at that time, I just don’t know if he had been promoted to director yet, and I’m also not completely sure of the history of that pick (did Houston own that pick, or was it actually SA’s and SA traded Scola later?).

    Second, Robert Horry was directly responsible for winning the Spurs their easiest championship. No hip check and Amar’e keeps his cool. Robert Horry was the greatest troll of all time. Would a championship qualify as a good pickup? In my book, yes. Also, given where he was drafting, I would absolutely consider Barbosa and Udrih great draft choices.

    I’m with you on McD seeming like the better, more accomplished candidate, but quantifiable reasons are coming up short.

    Either way, this whole debate is pointless.

  • 28 JD // May 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    “Horry was the greatest troll of all time”

    +1

  • 29 john // May 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    It’s sad to me that in another 10 years or so, there will be an entirely new generation of Suns fans who will likely have no recollection of the hip check and just how close the Suns actually were to winning it all during the SSoL era. What could have been…

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