Amin Elhassan provides insight on Phoenix Suns ops tenure, describes rise through organization


Many sports business students dream of leveraging their degree into an internship with a professional team after which they can work up the ranks of the organization’s operations department. Yet we are always warned that for most people such a path is a mere pipe dream with operations jobs so sought after and difficult to come by.

Former Suns assistant director of basketball operations Amin Elhassan did exactly that, starting as a Suns intern while earning a sports MBA degree at ASU and advancing his way up to the Suns’ assistant director of basketball operations post, a job he held between 2008-11.

Elhassan tells his story in a podcast I co-hosted for my SDSU sports MBA blog that you can listen to at the top of this post or on iTunes. Elhassan describes the myriad duties he undertook, from analytics and scouting to watching over rookies during Summer League and many things in between.

“I was kind of like just the utility guy,” Elhassan said. “Any one of these basketball operations I would be there to assist. I did everything.”

I encourage you to listen to the whole podcast — the first half in particular if you are interested in Elhassan’s story and the second half for some nuggets on the Suns — but below I have pulled out some particularly noteworthy points Elhassan makes:

On the three keys to getting a basketball operations job: “You’ve got to be lucky, you’ve got to be prepared, and you’ve got to know the right people. If you have those three things, you’ll get it.”

On the state of advanced stats: “There at least certain concepts we all accept [such as] … offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, rebound percentage. I feel like the optical data tracking is the future. This is going to be the be-all, end-all of statistics. It’s no longer an estimation or an overall look.”

On Kobe in Game 6 of the 2010 WCF: “I always go back to Game 6 because we did execute and it didn’t matter, and sometimes it just doesn’t matter. You can have the cheat sheet and you’re still not going to pass the test, and that’s where individual talent sometimes just rises above it.”

On Grant Hill: “We used to joke around that if you wanted to create the perfect athlete in the lab, you would create Grant Hill. All those on-court things, and also the pedigree of being the son of a pro athlete, but as a human being, how to treat people. He treated everybody with respect and gave them the time they deserved like they were all the owners of a franchise. … Grant as a person, that makes me want to be a better person every single day.”

On the 2009-10 Suns: “I think a lot of that whole year was the Culture of We, and everybody in that locker room bought in. We all understood if you do the right thing, rewards will come to you. … After that year obviously that team broke up and everybody went their separate ways, and I would see David Griffin or I would see Louis Amundson or I would see Jason Richardson after we traded him, and all those people we always said the same thing, ‘We didn’t know how good we had it.’ Because what we had in Phoenix that year, that’s not the NBA, that’s something special, and the NBA was what followed, which is people griping over minutes and people griping over shots and front office guys complaining about their coach, coaches complaining about their front office guys and coaches coaching for their jobs instead of coaching for the team. That’s what the NBA is.”

On searching for 2009-10: “I said something when it first started to break up, I said something at the time and to this day it’s the truest feeling ever. We’re going to spend the rest of our lives searching for that feeling one more time, and it’s true, everyone I’ve talked to, no one’s been back to that feeling. We’re searching for it forever.”

On players with elite basketball intelligence: “I can count three guys that I’ve been around that I would put them up IQ-wise against anybody in the NBA right now: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Boris Diaw. Brilliant. Basketball-wise IQ, brilliant as far as being able to recognize things on the fly, process and figure out all the different audibles. Nothing like those guys.”

On writing for ESPN Insider: “Now I’m officially a media member, and it’s weird because I never dreamt about this, I never thought it could happen even. I never thought people like me had a place in the media. Usually when they say ex-NBA guy in the media you’re thinking about Jeff Van Gundy, you’re thinking about Hubie Brown, guys with name cachet. I was in the room for big decisions, but I was a very small potato in the grand scheme of basketball operations. But now that I’m here, I love it. It’s opened me up to a completely different side of the game that I never got to experience, and it’s been a fun experience.”

On the Spurs team he picked to beat Miami in six: “This is a franchise — and I know this from personal experience — this is how they beat us when we were better than them: they don’t make mistakes, or at the very least they make less mistakes than you do. Whatever that weakness in the armor is, they’re going to get to it. They will exploit those mistakes that you make, and they will make less than you.”

Tags: Amin Elhassan Suns Podcasts

  • BCrayZ

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • hawki

    @ bill.thomas…..from previous article…re: Grant Jerrett

    The guy could have decided to go pro for any number of reasons….money….doesn’t really like school…whatever
    but, it might have something to do with the recruitment of Aaron Gordon, the 5 star consensus AA from San Jose.

    I’m still very high on Brandon Ashley, the soph to be PF from Arizona.
    I think he will have a big season & be a top 15 pick in next year’s draft.

    One last word on Jarrett…I don’t favor him to the exclusion of all others with the 57th pick…Carrick Felix from ASU would also be a nice option, as could a half-dozen others.
    I’m actually confident McD wil make the right choice.

  • DBreezy

    So Big Daddy and Jerry Sichting have been added to the coaching staff. Assuming that he’s retained, I’d love to hear the conversations between Ralph Sampson and Sichtng.

    For those who don’t remember why:

  • Scott

    Adetokunbo is looking a little better. There had been a few reports of excessive passivity, which raised concerns over whether he’d have the requisite aggression and toughness to be successful in the NBA.

    In recent play at the Euro Camp, there were the following observations …

    After scoring 17 points on 4/5 from inside the arc and 2/4 from three on top of 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 fouls in 20 minutes [...] Giannis Adetokunbo was impressive in his third game in as many days.

    Starting off the game with a cheap foul and a traveling call, which have plagued the competition on the whole, Adetokunbo finished the first quarter against the Italian Senior National B Team with 0 points. Scoring 10 points in the second quarter, he connected on a couple of nice floaters in the lane to get himself going. Finishing the game with 12 points, Adetokunbo once again showed promising offensive versatility, doing a little bit of everything in the paint, from the perimeter, and as a primary ball handler, but also making it clear that he still has a ways to go on this end of the floor.

    Once again, Adetokubo did his best work on the defensive end, where his length and foot speed allowed him to contest perimeter shots, defend multiple positions after switching, rotate from the weakside to challenge shots, and trap ball-handlers in the corners. Though he lacks strength, the 18 year old didn’t let himself get pushed around by the more experienced player he was competing against, showing the type of toughness he’ll need as he begins to compete more regularly against quality competition.

    The NBA scouts in attendance had a hard time hiding how impressed that were with his poise and basketball relative to where he’s at in his learning curve. Teams in the 20′s believe there’s virtually no chance he gets to them. While Adetokunbo was far from dominant here, he helped himself in a major way by showing that he can hold his own against legitimate players over the last two days against a collection of talented pros from Italy and Turkey which will earn him a significant boost in our top-100 rankings and 2013 mock draft when we make our next updates.


    So I’d go back to putting Adetokunbo on the list, if the Suns get an extra late 1st round pick (say, from a trade with the Wolves).