As first reported by Arizona Sports 620′s John Gambadoro late Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns are in negotiations with Jeff Hornacek to become the team’s next head coach. According to Gambo, the contract will be for a minimum of three years and an official announcement could be made as early as Tuesday.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, who initially reported Saturday night that Hornacek was a “frontrunner” for the position, also confirmed Gambo’s report. According to Woj, Hornacek is “eager” to helm the Suns after also interviewing with the Charlotte Bobcats earlier in the week. The new coach and Phoenix brass have already begun to put together a team of assistants.
Hornacek was drafted in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Suns and played his first six seasons with the organization before being traded to Philadelphia as the centerpiece of the Charles Barkley trade. The former All-Star played 14 years in the league and has served as an assistant on Tyrone Corbin’s staff in Utah since Feb. 2011 after working three years as a shooting consultant. He spent “much of his time” teaching Utah’s younger players, per Paul Coro, which likely was attractive to the Suns.
Hornacek was an elite shooter during his NBA career, as he nearly averaged a 50-40-90 with a career field-goal percentage of 49.6 percent, a 40.3 three-point shooting percentage and 87.7 percent shooting from the line. If he can teach shooting nearly as well the Suns figure to improve greatly after hitting just 44.3 percent of their shots last season (23rd). Throughout the Nash era, the Suns routinely led the league in shooting percentage.
Once this hiring becomes official, new GM Ryan McDonough will be linked with Hornacek as the duo charged with rebuilding the Suns. Due to the dearth of talent on the current roster and high volume of picks in the next three drafts, it will likely be a patient process focused on youth yet one in which improvement is expected year after year. This also avoids the sometimes awkward situation whereby the new GM inherits a previous coach as was the case previously with Alvin Gentry and Lance Blanks.
Stay tuned to ValleyoftheSuns for further news and analysis on the Suns’ coaching search as it breaks.